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Keep your holiday gifts from being stolen

Tuesday - 11/22/2011, 7:02am  ET

WASHINGTON - In preparing yourself for the onslaught of the holiday shopping season, police agencies are asking you to take some safety precautions so expensive gifts stay out of thieves' hands.

Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department, says when you are out and about shopping, you should stow your purchases in a place where they can't be seen. Avoid leaving gifts in the back seat of vehicle, where they become a temptation for thievery.

Caldwell also warns not to lose track of your surroundings, especially if you park in dimly lit parking lots or garages.

"If someone approaches you, and you feel at all concerned or suspicious about them, contact the security in the area or the police department," Caldwell says.

Those who prefer online shopping aren't clear of crooks. Packages left on front stoops are just as at risk as those left in the back seat of a car.

"That's an invitation to a criminal," Caldwell says.

She recommends having packages shipped to a place where they are immediately left inside after delivery.

Regardless of how you shop, be extra vigilant with your credit cards. Use only one credit card to purchase your gifts, and always keep an eye on your monthly statement.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)