HOUSTON — The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time to celebrate with family and friends. But criminals love to play Grinch by stealing your Christmas joy – and everything else they can get their greedy hands on.

Here are a few tips to help avoid holiday crimes:

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Avoid overloading yourself with bags or packages.Thiefs on prey on people who are distracted while loading their vehicles.
David-Prado

Shopping

  1. Always be aware of your surroundings.
  2. Have your car keys out before you leave the store.
  3. Avoid shopping at night or alone, whenever possible.
  4. If you take your children, keep a close eye on them at all times. Teach them about

    stranger danger” and make sure they know your phone number and address in case you get separate.

  5. Don’t carry large amounts of cash and take only the credit card you plan to use.
  6. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. Robbers inside the store often scope out potential victims, then text a description to their partner-in-crime waiting outside.
  7. For the same reason, don’t carry designer bags when you shop.
  8. If you must take a purse, consider a small, crossbody bag.
  9. Hide your cash, credit cards and cell phone in your front pocket, so if a thief does grab your purse, he or she won’t get away with much.
  10. Keep your wallet in your front pocket.
  11. Keep a record of your credit card information at home, just in case.
  12. Avoid overloading yourself with shopping bags or packages. Robbers often prey on people who are distracted while loading their vehicles.
  13. Walk with an attitude so you don’t look like easy prey.

At home

  1. Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts, so don’t’ answer the door unless you’re sure the delivery person is legit.
  2. Charity scams are popular during the holidays when people are feeling more generous.
  3. If you’re leaving town, have a neighbor or friend watch your home to collect your mail and newspapers while you’re gone.
  4. Leave your television on when you leave so potential burglars will think someone is home.
  5. Use timers for lights so your home appears occupied.
  6. Avoid displaying gifts in a spot that can be seen from windows and doors.
  7. Security cameras can help deter burglars and porch pirates.
  8. If you're ordering online, have your gifts delivered to your job, if possible.
  9. Otherwise, consider services like Amazon Key, Amazon Locker, UPS Access Point and Package Concierge.

Driving

  1. Be cautious while driving alone at night.
  2. Keep all doors locked and windows closed
  3. Never park next to large vehicles or vehicles with heavy tinted windows.
  4. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.
  5. Do not leave gifts or other valuables in plain sight.
  6. If security is available, ask for an escort to your vehicle, especially at night.

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Source: Springfield, Missouri Police Department