Every year, millions of Americans head to the stores on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Called Black Friday, the day has become synonymous with large deals on highly sought-after gifts. It has also become famous for crowd violence and scams.

If doing the bulk of your holiday shopping on Black Friday is a tradition, there are ways you can stay safe. Here are a few of basic tips for protecting yourself this year.

Plan Ahead

In the weeks and days before Black Friday, most stores will advertise their sales. This gives you the opportunity to look over what stores are offering, decide what you want, and where you want to get it. Planning now will save you time and effort when you’re actually in the store. Limiting your time surrounded by the crowds could also help you to avoid injury.

Choose Your Deals Carefully

It’s important to remember that there will be other people hunting for deals on Black Friday. It may seem obvious, but this means there will be competition for a limited number of discounted items. If there’s a particularly popular deal that you’re looking at, ask yourself if it’s really worth fighting the crowd. Is that television that’s 50 percent off worth possibly hurting yourself pushing through a crowd looking for the same deal?

Knowing your own physical limitations is also important when seeking out deals. Even if you can afford that television, can you carry it out of the store? Will you need a walker or mobility scooter to get around the store? If so, plan accordingly, as stores can get jam-packed with people and merchandise on Black Friday and may not be very accommodating to those with limited mobility.

Watch for Scams and Shop with One Credit Card

In the days leading up to Black Friday, be wary of scams or deals that seem too good to be true. You may receive emails from what appears to be a trusted store, but in reality, is a scammer looking for your information. Keep in mind, there are some telltale signs of scams you can look out for. In some cases, an email may say you can enter a drawing for a gift card. Others may offer you the chance to get a head start on the deals. Generally, though, they’ll want your personal information.

To protect yourself from scams, it’s a wise idea to use a single credit card for purchases. This approach helps keep your bank account information from being compromised in the case of a breach (like the massive 2013 Target breach). Using a single card will also prevent your other cards or bank accounts from being open to Black Friday data breaches.

Don’t Leave Your Gifts Exposed

After you’re done in the first store, don’t leave any of your purchases out in the open. Store them in the trunk of your car or cover them with a blanket.

Leaving your purchases exposed is an open invitation to thieves looking to do their own “discount shopping.” By hiding your buys, you at least make it more difficult for thieves to target you. It may also be smart to go home between stores to drop off gifts to fully protect yourself from theft.

If All Else Fails, Shop Online

If you don’t want to bother with the crowds or don’t see a particularly appealing deal, fret not. Online shopping is a viable alternative to going to the store.

Let’s face it. Heading to the store means you may have to handle possible injury, crowds, theft, and traffic. All for deals that really aren’t the best of the year. Instead, shop from home while enjoying a plate of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner.

Many stores offer the same deals online that people are lining up for in the store. If none of those deals tickle your fancy, you also have Cyber Monday. This newer sales day is quickly growing in popularity as it continues to smash records.

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Whether you’re staying home or heading out to stores this Black Friday, stay safe. No deal is worth getting hurt or hurting somebody else over. Be careful and happy shopping!

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft