Food and football will likely be top priorities for many on Thanksgiving, but safety and security should be top of mind for anyone heading out for holiday shopping.

“This time of year brings with it concerns for safety and security,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said. “Big crowds and extended store hours create distractions that can make you a prime target for crooks looking to steal your money, your merchandise or even your identity. It’s important to stay alert to protect yourself, your valuables and your personal information.”

Sheriff Koon reminded everyone to follow these safe shopping tips:

  • Keep track of your bags and other packages. If you leave something behind, it could get stolen or discarded.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package.
  • Be sure not to buy more than you can carry. If your packages are making it hard for you to walk or see, ask a store employee to help you carry them to your car.
  • Check receipts to see whether your full credit card number appears. If a receipt has your full number on it, take a pen and scratch it out.
  • Double-check that you have your credit cards and wallet or purse after you pay for your items.

“It’s easy to get distracted during this time of year with all of the comings and goings of the holidays,” Koon said. “Busy holiday shoppers can become careless and vulnerable to financial fraud crimes.”

According to Koon, the following preventive measures can help protect your credit card information from falling into the wrong hands.

  • Keep a close watch on your credit card every time you use it. Get it back as quickly as possible.
  • Never write your PIN on your credit card.
  • Never leave your credit cards or receipts lying around.
  • Shield your credit card number so that others around you can’t copy it or shoot a picture of it with a smartphone or other camera.
  • Only carry credit cards that you absolutely need.
  • Shred anything with your credit card number on it.

To report any suspicious activity in or around a store, call 911. To report fraudulent financial activity, contact the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department at 803-785-2400 or Crimestoppers at 888-CRIME-SC.