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Before Your Holiday Shopping Excursion, Heed a Few Warnings

Police advise taking a few precautions as you plan your assault on department stories during the gift-buying frenzy.

As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, law enforcement agencies are reminding shoppers of some safety tips to protect themselves while hunting for gift deals.

• Before heading out, police recommend that shoppers program a local police dispatch number into cell phones in case of an emergency (in Novato, it’s 897-1122). Numbers for other police departments can be found on those agencies' websites.

• It's safest to shop during daylight hours, and those dedicated bargain hunters should shop with a friend if you’re going to line up for pre-dawn sales or head out after dark.

• If you’re driving on one of your early-morning or shopping nighttime expeditions, make sure to park in well-lit areas.

• Shoppers are advised to carry only small amounts of cash and to be extra aware of surroundings when using ATMs.

• Keep a record of credit card numbers in a safe place at home, and credit card companies need to be notified immediately if cards are lost or stolen.

• Shoppers should try to avoid being loaded down by too many purchases, police said. A security escort to a car or taxi can be requested at most malls or department stores.

• Police recommend that shoppers be aware of strangers walking up or trying to make contact because thieves and con artists often prey on hurried or distracted shoppers at this time of year.

• Wrapped gifts, shopping bags and personal property should never be left in a vehicle in plain view. You're just baiting the bad guys.

• After opening gifts, break down cardboard boxes and keep them out of public view before disposal, especially for expensive electronics and high-value item. Don't leave hints as to what's inside your house.

— Bay City News Service

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