MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As many people head out to the stores to start their holiday shopping, police say it's important to know criminals are waiting for the opportunity to take advantage of distracted holiday shoppers.
Police say there are things you can do from the moment you pick out your cart until you unpack your gifts at home.
Many are excited to start shopping. You may even be rushing to make that holiday steal but, North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Chief Phillip Webster, says you have to be cautious from start to finish.
"As you're shopping, be aware of your bags. Don't leave your shopping cart unattended with your purse sitting in the child's seat," Webster said.
When you reach the cashier, Senior Vice President at the South Atlantic Bank, Barbara Marshall, says it's important to keep track of your credit and debit cards even though your transaction may be over.
"Don't just casually drop it in your hand bag after a transaction or put it in your pocket. Make sure you know where it is because you don't want that to get lost or stolen," Marshall suggested.
As you leave the store, Webster says you should be aware of your surroundings.
"Walk with some type of confidence. Keep your head up, be alert, walk around, have your keys, have your keys ready to go," Webster explained.
Chief Webster says though you are at your car, your guard cant be down just yet.
"When you're putting your items, don't leave them exposed to the public," Webster said.
Webster says if you have a trunk, use it, and if you drive a mini van or SUV, you may want to consider trips home, especially for the bigger items that barely fit in your car, or holding them with the cashier until you are ready to leave all together.
Lastly, park in well lit areas if you are shopping at night or through the night for black Friday.
"If you see someone out in the parking lot and they don't look like they are shopping and they're just hanging out in the parking lot it's probably time to pick up the phone and call us," Webster explained.
Other tips from Barbara Marshall, include being aware of your bank account and what is going in and out of it, keeping your bank in the loop if you plan to travel out of state for the holiday, and reporting credit/debit card fraud right away.
Marshall also suggests making sure the sites you are choosing to shop online with are secure and start with "https" she says the "s" stands for secure.
After you are done shopping, Chief Webster suggests you keep your guard up even as you pull into your own drive way and says you may want to break down boxes before putting something like a 50-inch high definition TV box outside with the trash. He says this will help avoid your home becoming a target after holiday shopping.