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Staying safe while shopping during the holidays

It's the holiday season and the bad guys are out there. They are always there, but this season really brings them out. This is a joyous season of happiness and joy, so don't get so paranoid about shopping that it spoils it for you. Just take some precautions. Here they are -

• Know how to cancel your credit or debit card. There is an 800 number that you can call for your bank or credit union. Find it, keep it. Call it the instant you suspect your card has been stolen. If it turns out you just mislaid it, that's OK, it'll be a hassle, but better safe than sorry.

• Don't carry around a lot of cash. Duh.

• Keep your purchases out of sight. Don't leave them where they can be seen in your car. Cover them up, or better still, put them in the trunk. Yes, you have a car alarm, but that won't stop the bad guys from breaking one of your windows.

• Don't leave your car running and the door open, even if you're just checking your mail or going up to the door for "just a minute".

• Have a secure password for online shopping. No, not the name of your dog. Something really difficult. Write it down and hide it. The chances are much higher than the bad guys will figure out a simple password online than they will find it in your drawer in your bedroom. If a store has "Verified by Visa", do that, too.

• Clean out your car. If your car is a traveling office, with all kinds of confidential information in it about you, consider how easy it you would make it for the bad guys if they stole your car. If your car is stolen, let that be the worst of it. Your house keys belong in your pocket, not in your car. The same with your cell phone.

No, you can't be 100% guaranteed that the bad guys won't get you. It's all about increasing your chances of being safe, and making it so difficult for them that they pass you by, looking for an easier target. And, unfortunately, they will find them!