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Our view: Shop safely this holiday

Black Friday has come and gone, but there’s plenty of shopping left for area consumers.

Cyber Monday, when retailers offer great deals online, is just two days away.

And pretty much between now and Dec. 24, merchants both at brick-and-mortar stores and on the Internet will be trying to persuade consumers to spend their money with them.

Whether you prefer to do your shopping in the hustle and bustle of other people or from behind your keyboard, there are steps you should take to protect yourself from criminals looking to prey upon you.

The National Crime Prevention Council, a nonprofit focused on crime prevention for families and the community, has these tips to help you shop safely:

• Don’t buy more than you can carry. Take a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car;

• When shopping online, do so with companies you know and trust. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is;

• Save all your receipts and print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. This will help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in;

• Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites;

• Do not take out your credit card or checkbook until you are asked to do so. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information;

• Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket;

• Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in;

• Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or take them directly home;

• Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package;

• If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.

Oh, and don’t forget to shop local.

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