How to Shop Smart and Stay Safe on Black Friday

Don't let crooks target you this holiday season. 

Posted: 11/22/2012 07:00 AM EST

You may have already scoured the sales ads and carved out your Black Friday shopping plans, but just as important is making sure to safeguard yourself and your purchases as you shop this weekend.

The National Retail Federation estimates 147 million people will visit stores on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Many retailers have already readied plans for handling the crowds, including having shoppers line up inside the stores to decrease a stampede-like rush to the front doors, handing out tickets or colored wristbands to keep account of who was in-line first and beefing up security both inside and outside the store. The hope is that these measures will deter the fighting, looting and injuries caused by shopper-on-shopper violence seen in years past.

If you plan on hitting the stores Black Friday, consider these tips from the National Crime Prevention Council for staying safe as you shop:

- Don't buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.

- Shop online with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

- Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

- Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.

- Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.

- Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.

- Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.

- Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

- Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.

- If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.

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(Photo: Rod Lamkey/Getty Images)

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