It's undeniable that Black Friday marks the start of the holiday shopping season, but there isn't always only goodwill and cheer behind the packages and bows.
Law enforcement and security officials are reminding Pleasanton residents to use commonsense strategies to stay safe when they go out to shop or when they shop online.
Pleasanton police officer Shannon Revel-Whitaker said she recommends re-parking if someone is going to take multiple trips inside a store or the mall.
"Don't load up your car for a criminal," she said. "A deal is great, but is it worth it?"
She also emphasized parking smartly -- in a well-lit area that isn't near loitering people -- and remembering basic safety rules, such as being careful while on the road.
"Please make sure you have your wits about you and you're driving safe," Revel-Whitaker said. "Take care of yourself."
Cyber crimes are particularly invisible crimes. To keep attackers from getting your banking information or from introducing malware onto your computer, use these tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance:
* Keep your devices and machines up to date with security software.
* Do not click on suspicious emails, Tweets or Facebook messages, and delete them if possible.
* Don't make online purchases over an unsecure network. Using a direct web access over a 3G/4G connection on your phone is safer than using an unsecure network on your computer.
* Make sure the website you're purchasing from is legitimate. Be wary of URLs that use close but incorrect spellings of popular websites.
* Stick to paying with credit cards, rather than checks or direct banking information. Never send cash or a check through the mail, and don't use money-wiring services.
* Save a paper trail of receipts for all purchases, and double-check your bank statement against those receipts.
As for shopping in person, theft from cars is among the most common crimes in Pleasanton. Avoid leaving valuables in your car while you shop, and don't transfer items to your trunk while in the store parking lot in case a would-be thief is casing the parking lot -- do so before you leave your house.
Do shopping in several trips to avoid having too many packages to handle, or ask a friend or store employee to help you carry all your items to the car in one trip. By putting packages in a car trunk and going back into the mall, you may return to find the trunk open and the items stolen, according to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).
Wait until asked to take out your credit card or check when at the register if there is someone close enough to see over your shoulder. Thieves can memorize your credit card number if it's out too long, according to the NCPC.
Deter pickpockets by carrying your purse close to your body, have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle and check the backseat of your car before getting inside.
If you are shopping with children, have a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place, such as a large landmark inside the store that they should wait by if they get lost, and alert mall security to help you find your children.