Black Friday is all about being smart with your money and scoring great deals, but there's one thing you shouldn't check off your list: safety.
As you head out to stores hunting for bargains _ whether at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving or 11 a.m. on Black Friday _ make sure you don't fall victim to criminal activity.
"This is a criminal opportunity," said Keyla Concepcion, spokeswoman for the Broward County Sheriff's Office. "If criminals see someone who's distracted, not paying attention, too concerned with bargains or deals and not paying attention to their belongings or surroundings, that may make them an easy target."
To prevent becoming a victim, here are some Black Friday shopping safety tips.
Avoid becoming an easy target for thieves trying to snatch purchases _ don't overwhelm yourself buying more than you can carry.
Take only one credit or debit card with you _ if your wallet gets stolen, you'll only need to cancel one credit card instead of multiple. Avoid carrying cash.
Be watchful of onlookers _ don't take out your credit card or checkbook until asked at the register. Some thieves "shoulder surf" to get your account information.
Have your purse close to your body and/or carry your wallet in your front pocket. Don't tempt thieves by placing your purse in the shopping cart.
If taking children along, don't let them wander off on their own and always accompany them to public restrooms. Have a designated "meet area" in case you get separated. Show children who may be a source of help within the store or mall, such as a law enforcement officer or mall security, in case they get lost. Have children memorize or keep handy your cell phone number, home phone number and address.
Out of store:
Park as close to the store as possible, in well-lit areas.
Have your keys in hand as you near your vehicle. Check the back seats and surrounding areas before getting inside the car.
Do not leave any valuables visible while hopping from store to store. Take them home after buying them or lock them in the trunk.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you feel unsafe, ask mall security/store staff to walk you over to your car.
Sources: Broward County Sheriff's Office, National Crime Prevention Council, TrustedChoice.com, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children