As shoppers throughout the state prepare to start their holiday shopping, the Pine Bluff Police Department has offered some tips on doing it safely.

As shoppers throughout the state prepare to start their holiday shopping, the Pine Bluff Police Department has offered some tips on doing it safely.

“Safe shopping is no accident,” Lt. Bob Rawlinson said. “By planning ahead and being aware of your surroundings, you can make the experience a safe one.”

Being aware of your surroundings means that you look around from time to time and avoid concentrating so hard on shopping that you forget to check people around you and your personal property, like purses left in shopping carts unattended.

“Shop with friends or relatives if possible,” Rawlinson said. “There’s safety in numbers.”

He also suggested carrying the most expensive items close to your body, and don’t try to carry so many items that you lose the ability to react quickly.

Also, if shopping with your children, keep a close eye on them, and teach them to go to a store clerk or security officer if they get separated from you, and make sure they know their first and last name so they can tell someone who they are, Rawlinson said.

“Return to your vehicle periodically to check on it, and reduce the amount you are carrying and must keep track of,” he said. “Store packages in the trunk, or if your vehicle doesn’t have one, out of plain view (on the floorboard under a blanket or clothes. Ask for an escort to your car if you feel nervous.”

Rawlinson also suggested using a debit card, credit card or travelers checks rather than carrying a lot of cash while shopping.

“The Pine Bluff Police Department will field extra patrols during the holiday season to assist the motoring public,” Rawlinson said. “These officers will be helping stranded travelers, responding to emergencies, and enforcing the laws. There will also be patrols specifically targeting aggressive drivers, drinking drivers, and occupants not wearing seat belts.”

While Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, the Monday after Thanksgiving has become known as “Cyber Monday” because it is one of the busiest Internet shopping days of the year. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel warns online shoppers to also be careful.

“There are ways to ensure you have a safe online shopping experience so that gift giving is a joyous occasion, not an opportunity for cyber thieves to take advantage of you,” McDaniel said.

The National Consumers League said consumers spent $887 million online on Cyber Monday in 2009, excluding travel, making it the second highest spending day in 2009.

Some of the suggestions McDaniel offered for safe online shopping include:

• Give payment information only to businesses you know and trust, and only when and where it is appropriate, like on an order form.

• Use a secure browser — software that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet, to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website.

• Read and understand the refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase.

• Pay by credit card, the most secure way. Under Federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t get what you were promised. You may also dispute unauthorized charges to your credit card.

• Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check out the seller’s reputation before you bid. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options, and be very wary if you are asked to wire money.

• Review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. Notify your credit or debit cared issuer immediately if your credit or debit card or checkbook is lost or stolen, or you suspect someone is using your account without permission.