UNDATED - This is a busy time of the year for retailers.  But, it's also one of the busiest times for crooks.

The St. Cloud Police Department's Crime Prevention Specialist John Justin says it's a good idea to have a plan, if your credit card gets stolen.

Justin says you should also know that while you're scouring the ads for the best deals, store hours, and locations, the criminals are doing the same thing and are targeting those locations.

Justin says police officers will be watching for the crooks.

Justin says there's a group of loss prevention associates that works closely with all of the local police departments year round to try to prevent shoplifting and other retail crimes.

Holiday Shopping Crime Prevention Tips
-- Have a plan. This will help you stay mentally alert to your surroundings and you will not have to think about too many things at once.

-- Be patient. Your shopping plan should include a healthy dose of patience and extra time. If you find yourself rushing or becoming impatient, take a break and review your plan. This will help you maintain your focus on your surroundings.

-- Make sure that all of your vehicle doors are locked and the windows are closed when you leave it. Too often, thieves simply open an unlocked door to gain access to the vehicle interior and the gifts.

-- Lock your packages out of sight in your vehicle trunk. When packages are in “plain view” in the vehicle interior, the risk of theft increases. When leaving one retail location to drive to another, place your packages in the trunk before you leave. Don’t place them in the trunk upon arrival at your next destination. Criminals do target shoppers that make this common mistake.

-- Avoid parking in remote areas of lots and park in well-illuminated areas during hours of darkness. Pay attention to any suspicious person(s) that appear to be loitering in the area.

-- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay with a check or credit card when possible. You should know how to notify your credit/debit card issuer immediately should your card be lost or stolen while you are shopping.

-- Pay extra attention to your purse, wallet and checkbook. Pickpockets prey on shoppers during the holiday season and they do not care about their victims or their financial loss.

-- Avoid overloading yourself with packages. You need clear visibility and freedom of movement to prevent a “snatch and run” of your wallet, purse, checkbook or packages by a criminal.

-- Teach your children to ask a store clerk for help if you become separated. They should never go to the parking lot or to the car alone.

-- If you are waiting for a ride from a friend or by public transportation, wait in illuminated areas or with other people. Avoid distractions and stay focused on your surroundings.

-- Report thefts, other crimes and suspicious activities to the police immediately. Dial 911 in emergency situations. The non-emergency number for the St. Cloud Police Department is: (320) 251-1200

More From AM 1240 WJON