The Dawson County Sheriff's Office wants everyone to enjoy their holiday shopping experience and encourages shoppers to do their part by following a few safety tips:
• Be aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly when approaching or leaving your vehicle.
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while you are in or out of your vehicle.
• If you shop at night, park in a well-lit area, and avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows.
• If there are suspicious people in the area, do not approach your vehicle alone. Ask security for an escort before approaching your vehicle.
• Do not leave packages on the seats of your car. Lock all valuables in your trunk.
• Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
• If possible, do not carry a purse or wallet. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you must carry a large sum of money, divide the cash between your purse, pockets and/or wallet.
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card whenever possible.
• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Keep a record at home of all of your credit card numbers. Make sure to store this information in a secure location at your home.
• Teach your child to stay close to you at all times while shopping. Show them in advance how to go to a store clerk and ask for help if you become separated.
• If you can, shop with a friend or relative.
The official Christmas shopping season is still a couple days away, but retailers are bracing for one of the busiest Black Friday shopping events in years.
According to a report by the National Retail Federation, an estimated 147 million people will shop either at stores or online during the Black Friday weekend, which draws its name from an accounting term that indicates retailers have made a profit, or are "in the black."
Big box retailer Walmart will kick-off the holiday shopping season with a pre-Black Friday event starting at 8 p.m. Thursday with additional items available at 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Friday.
North Georgia Premium Outlets will also be opening early this year with select stores opening as early as 9 p.m. for what is billed as Midnight Madness.
Jakia Hopgood of Decatur said there was nothing "mad" or "crazy" about waiting in a 400-person deep line to find a deal for designer handbags during last year's shopping event.
"The lines are long and it's too cold, but we're hearing Coach has everything for 30 percent off," she said.
While finding that perfect gift at a bargain price is alluring, the Dawson County Sheriff's Office wants to remind everyone of predators that target shoppers each holiday season.
"There's going to be a lot of people out shopping this weekend, but there's also going to be those criminals that target shoppers," said Lt. Ray Goodie. "There are some very simple things, like locking your cars and leaving valuables at home, you can do to make sure you are not a victim of these predators."