Be safe this holiday shopping season

The rush for holiday shopping has officially begun.

The constant running that surrounds the holiday shopping season means shoppers need to practice common sense and have an awareness of their surroundings in order to make sure it is a safe shopping season.

Thieves look for the opportunities the season brings. They prey on the easy targets.

Here are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t become one of those targets.

One of the most basic safe holiday shopping tips is to avoid carrying large sums of cash. If you do have to carry cash, distribute the amount among several different pockets. Flashing a wad of bills is just asking for trouble.

Keep receipts separate from bags of gifts. Receipts can sometimes contain account information that can be used in identity theft.

Shop in a group. There is always safety in numbers. Also, try to leave the mall or store with a group of people, especially when it is dark.

Shop at malls or stores that you are familiar with and avoid dark hallways or corners.

Bring along a cell phone and make sure it is turned on.

Thieves also target vehicles loaded with holiday gifts.

Keep gifts in the trunk. Keep all doors locked in the vehicle. Don’t store valuable gifts in the backseat in plain view.

Have your vehicle key in hand and ready to use when approaching the vehicle. Many vehicle keychains have a panic button that will sound the car horn and flash the lights.

Don’t laden yourself with an armful of packages. Ask for help from a store worker to get large packages to your vehicle. Park in well-lit areas as close to the store as possible.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department plans to have patrols around the Fort Steuben Mall and other shopping centers as part of its annual safe shopper program.

Safe shopping online also is important. Change passwords often. Only shop at websites you trust.

Consider having packages shipped to work if possible or have a neighbor immediately get the package after delivery. Porch pirates are always looking for packages left alone.

The holiday season is about sharing gifts. Don’t give a thief an easy gift.

Be safe and smart while shopping.