Holiday shopping season presents many challenges. Tracking down this season’s “it toy” or negotiating mall traffic may seem like the biggest perils you’ll encounter, but be wary of the real dangers that occur in the mall parking lot.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 10 property related thefts occur in parking lots. Follow these rules of the mall parking lot, and you can avoid becoming part of that 10 percent.

1. Chose your parking spot wisely

At the risk of stating the obvious, the closer to the mall entrance, the better. Not only is this convenient, but it is typically the most populated area of the parking lot. It is also the best lit. If you can’t find a spot that’s close to the mall and well lit, keep searching, even if it takes longer.

2. Lock it up

If you are on the home stretch of a shopping marathon, it may seem like a small hassle, but take that extra moment to completely lock your car. Most new cars have remote key fobs, but for the older ones, be patient and lock it all up.

3. Out of sight, out of (the criminal’s) mind

The best way to keep a mouse out of the house is to hide the cheese. The same can be said for leaving valuables visible in your car. Any bags or expensive items of any kind should be put in the back and out of sight of would-be-criminals. Make sure the GPS gets put away, as well.

Criminals might also camp out waiting for someone to drop off a large item in the car and go back into the mall. If you have to make another trip back inside, move to another parking space on the other side of the mall.

4. Have a plan

Getting lost in the parking lot is a surefire way to make you easy prey. If you have Google Maps on your smart phone, you can “drop a pin” simply by opening the app and holding your finger down on your location when you park. Save that location and you can use GPS to get back to your car without getting lost.

But don't spend too much time looking at the map. People are easily distracted when staring at a phone, so look occasionally, and be aware of your surroundings the rest of the time.

5. Avoid Strangers

The holidays might be a time of goodwill, but criminals play on that sentiment. Be wary of strangers who approach you in the parking lot. Have your keys in one hand and your cell in the other—in case you need to call 911. And remember, the parking lot can also be a crowded place. If you scream, Good Samaritans are not too far away.

See our holiday gift ideas and Black Friday guide.

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