Law enforcement urges shoppers to shop smart

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SARASOTA, Fla. - When you go out shopping, so do scammers and thieves. What should you do to protect yourself?

Every year people camp out at stores or spend Black Friday in stores trying to get gifts for friends and family -- only to have someone steal those gifts. Well law enforcement has a few tips to help keep you safe.

According to the National Retail Federation, 140 million people will pack stores and area shops during the Thanksgiving holiday. And while most will be trying to shop some will have other motives.

"I think you see more strong arm robberies this time of year." Dave Bristow with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office says there are many things shoppers do, like leave shopping bags in their car, that can make them a thief's next victim. "Obviously if you just lay them on the front seat, you become a target.”

But Bristow says taking a few safety precautions will not only keep you safe, but also your purchases. "I think first and foremost you just need to be aware of your surroundings. If you go to a mall, park where other people are parking; don’t park away from where most of the people are."

In addition, Bristow says its important to put your purchases away in a safe place. “After your shopping, don’t carry out a ton of shopping bags, because you become a target there. And if you have to do that, go with a group of people and immediately lock those bags in your trunk or somewhere someone can’t get to them easily.”

He also has suggestions for those making online purchases. "Check the website to make sure it’s a secure web site. Shop where you’re used to shopping; don’t go to an obscure website and start purchasing things if you haven't checked it out.”

Regardless of when you shop -- Crazy Thursday, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday -- officials say you must be safe and alert.