Black Friday sales are underway and stores will be packed with shoppers searching for the best deals of the season.

And while most people are cheerful this time of year, holiday Grinches are lurking to steal your merchandise.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant gave tips to protect yourself and your belongings this holiday season.

• Be aware of your surroundings. Criminals target distracted shoppers.

• If possible, shop in pairs or a group.

• Do not buy more than you can carry.

• Don’t pull out your cash in front of people. Consider using alternate paying methods.

• “Park your car as close to the business as you can,” Bryant said. "Especially after dark and in well lit areas.”

• Keep your vehicle locked and store items inside your trunk.

• If shopping with children: Make sure to have a plan if you become separated from one another, pick a central meeting place, make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security if they need help and have them memorize or keep your cell phone number handy.

If you see someone acting suspicious don’t hesitate to call police and let them handle the situation.