Tips for shopping: How to stay safe during the holiday season

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This holiday shopping season, consumers shouldn't only think about safety while at the mall.

Lihui Tao knows this firsthand after she had an encounter with a man at the Kroger grocery store on Nov. 7.

"He wore a hat," Tao said. "Wore a black shirt and blue vest."

She said a man approached her vehicle as she was loading groceries in the Kroger parking lot.

"A guy came from the other side, opened my door and grabbed my purse," Tao said.

Because she saw him, she decided to fight back and chased after the man.

"I tried to grab back," Tao said. "He grabbed it fast and closed my door, and I got out of my car and chased him."

The suspect got away with her purse, credit cards, and cell phones.

While she saw the man steal her purse, Houston police officers say many don't.

"Have it on you," Officer James Sobota said. "Either clutched onto your hand, or over your shoulder on your back. It's very important that you know where that backpack or purse is at all the time."

If you don't carry your purse, officers say use the cart straps to loop around the handle.

"Also zip your purse because criminals walk by you as you're looking at an ingredient. They will walk by you rather quickly and grab your purse," Sobota said.

Another place to pay attention is the bank.

"Have that cash with you," Sobota said. "Do not leave it in your car. Many of those criminals are actually following you to the next stop."

Also, keep your focus at the gas station.

"It's very important to re-lock your car as you are pumping gas because your back is towards the car and people will sneak in," Sobota said.

Assume people are watching you while you shop as well.

If you make an expensive purchase, don't just hide it in the back and head to the next store.

"It's real easy," Sobota said. "What they do is they smash your window out, or break the lock, and push that trunk release, and now they have access and they know what you have inside your trunk."

It's advice Tao said you should take.

"I just want to share my story to tell everybody just be careful," Tao said. "Even if you think it's safe environment."

Officers said if you catch someone stealing your purse, don't fight back. Yell for help, take a photo if you can and immediately notify management.

Kroger said it's working to prevent these types of issues with cameras, signs -- and at some stores -- security personnel roaming the parking lot.

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