The holiday season brings big crowds looking for Christmas bargains in stores and malls. The season also brings out another type of shopper – one looking for bargains found by other shoppers.

These are, of course, thieves who take advantage of the hustle and bustle of the shopping season and use it to their own advantage. While people are tired and distracted after long lines and short tempers in stores, thieves use this weariness to their advantage.

Many law enforcement agencies say there is a spike in thefts between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are some tips provided by several Internet sites to help people not become victims during the next few weeks.

While shopping:

* Don’t park in unlit areas at night.

* Put your shopping bags in your trunk. Don’t try to cover items on your seats with a blanket.

* Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you. If this is necessary, keep it in your front pocket not in your purse or wallet.

* Be extra careful when carrying a purse-they are the prime targets in crowded shopping areas. If you do carry a purse, make sure it has a strap that can go over the shoulder and be held under the arm, making them more difficult for purse snatchers to grab.

* Beware of strangers approaching you. This is the time of year when thieves may try various methods to distract you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

At home:

* If away for an extended period, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail.

* Leave a light on when you leave your home at night or put your lights (including Christmas lights) on an automatic timer.

* Make sure holiday gifts are not visible through the windows.

During this time of year it can be easy become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. Protecting yourself from potential crime is the easiest way to ensure a safe and happy holiday season.