CHICAGO --When you hit the stores to shop for gifts this holiday season, be sure to bring along your street smarts. Police are offering safety tips to prevent shoppers from becoming victims at a time when pickpockets are at their peak.
"Criminals like to take advantage of crowds. So if there's a crowd and you're not aware of your surroundings, you make yourself vulnerable to crime," Chicago Police Cmdr. Cindy Sam said.
Police officers demonstrated the most common methods used by scam artists such as "the stall," where one thief will slow down in front of an unsuspecting person in a revolving door and another suspect will take the victim's wallet.
Many times, pickpockets will distract victims, like in the scenario where one person asks for directions while an accomplice takes the victim's tablet. Police say thieves tend to work in teams and scope out people who have not concealed their valuables.
"If you carry something that's easily accessible to you, it's likely easily accessible to someone else," Sam said.
Police say you should close your purse and carry it in front of you or carry your wallet in your front pocket.
On Michigan Avenue, many shoppers have already taken those tips to heart. David Ladomer said he takes precautions everywhere he goes.
"I told my wife this morning, I said, 'Tuck your necklace in.' She was going walking by herself," Ladomer said.
Shoppers are also advised to put away the cell phones and other devices. It's a lesson Duane Riggens learned the hard way when his phone was nearly snatched when he was leaving a store.
"Holiday season is a season for giving and being joyful. But when someone takes things from you, it spoils your whole holiday season," Riggers said.