Black Friday sales are getting 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 Matt Coates is offering tips on ways to protect yourself and your belongings this holiday season.

“Always be aware of your surroundings,” Coates said. “That’s the most important thing.”  

He also suggests shopping in pairs or with a group and never buying more than you can carry. 

“Park your car as close to the business as you can, and park in well-lit areas,” Coates said. “Always lock your vehicle and store items inside the trunk.”

He also said carrying a large amount of cash is never a good idea, and suggests paying with other methods. 

If you’re shopping with children, make sure to have a plan if you become separated; 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 your cell phone number.