Crowded stores, people bumping into each other, plenty of distractions, a lot of credit cards being flashed and money changing hands. For most of us it’s the start of the holiday shopping season, but for pickpockets and identity thieves it’s like Christmas.

Here is advice to keep your family, your packages and your credit safe.

This advice is compiled from law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau, professional crime prevention organizations and identity theft protection services.

Outside the store

1. Always lock your car doors, even if you are just planning to make it a quick stop.

2. Park in well-lit areas. Even if it’s daytime, park near lamp posts — it will make finding your car easier and offer protection if your shopping trip lasts past nightfall.

3. Avoid parking next to vehicles with dark, tinted windows.

4. Have your car keys in hand before you walk through the parking lot.

5. Be aware of your surroundings and anyone who may be following you. Don’t focus on your smartphone or listen to an iPod or other music player, because these can distract you from being aware of your surroundings.

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