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Make safety a priority while Black Friday shopping

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Black Friday kicks off some of the busiest shopping days of the year. It’s also a prime time for thieves looking to take advantage of distracted shoppers.

While you’re out shopping the sales, you’ll want to be extremely careful. Make sure you’re not an easy target for thieves by keeping these safety guidelines at the top of your shopping list.

Use your credit card wisely

The first piece of holiday shopping advice: If you use credit or debit cards, only use one throughout the season, so if there's any type of security breach, not all of your cards are affected.

If you use cash, keep it in a secure place in your wallet or purse and don’t pull it out until you’re at the register.

Parking safety

Park as close to the store as possible and remember where you park by using isle numbers or landmarks around your parking spot.

If it's nighttime, park your car under a light so it's well lit.

Have your keys and cellphone ready when walking to your car. But News4Jax Crime and Safety expert, Ken Jefferson says it’s important to stay off your cellphone and don’t be distracted.

“Situational awareness is key,” said Charlie Moore, a retired US Marshal who now offers self-defense classes to the public and businesses. “Look between cars and scan the parking lot for anyone who may be lingering,” Moore said.

Mothers especially, need to be vigilant. According to Moore, a mother’s most vulnerable time is typically when she’s in the parking lot strapping her child into the car seat.

Moore suggests putting your child’s car seat in the middle of the back seat, so that a mother can physically get into the car with her child, close the door behind her and lock it, while she straps him/her into the seat.

Don’t be afraid to utilize the services some stores may offer to walk shoppers to their car. Robbers won’t usually attack or rob someone when there are other people around. By having a store escort accompany you to your car, your chances of being target could be lowered.

Protect your purse

Some may be thinking about everything but their purse or valuables hanging over their shoulder as they walk to stores.

But purse thefts can happen quickly. You look away from your shopping cart to grab something off a shelf and when you turn back around, your purse is gone. Shoppers should always be wary of purse thieves.

One simple thing for shoppers to do is lock up their purse with the strap in the child seat of a grocery cart, for instance. That way if a purse snatcher tries to grab it and run, he or she will take the whole cart with them.

Moore said women should try to avoid carrying big purses, since they can be a signal to a potential thief that they are loaded with stuff worth stealing. Just carry the essentials in your pocket or in a small purse that is easy to conceal in a parking lot.

If you do have a purse:

  1. Don’t wear the strap across your chest (as you may have been previously told) because if it’s grabbed, you could be chocked or dragged.
  2. Do hold your purse as close to your body as possible, but do not swing it at your side. That makes it easy to grab.
  3. Do try to carry your purse in your less dominant hand. So if you are right handed, carry the purse in your left. This frees up your “strongest” hand to hit an attacker to defend yourself, or to easily get yourself into your car as you run away.

While there are things women can do to try and prevent a purse snatching, if someone does try to grab it, Moore strongly urges women to give it up.

“Your purse is not worth your life," he said. "Let it go."

Safely store your bags

Hide your bags if you leave them in your car while you continue shopping.

It’s important not to have your bags in plain view for thieves who may walk by or attempt to carjack your vehicle.