HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – We are just days away from the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

On Thursday, Nassau County police offered up some advice on how to keep criminals from stealing your hard-earned cash and holiday cheer.

Save your money for holiday gifts, don’t blow it in the mall parking lot by making what Nassau County authorities say are avoidable mistakes that turn shoppers into victims.

“We have extra patrols for the holidays.”

Officer Matt McCartin and scores of others will be descending on malls, patrolling in marked and unmarked cars – in uniforms and plain clothes – scanning inside and out.

“Even though you may not see them, they are out there and we see you,” Lt. Richard Lebrun said.

They’re also looking from above on mounted units.

“Right now I can see at five to six feet at a level horizontal lane. When you’re on a horse that increases to about 13 feet so they can see above cars,” Lebrun explained.

Bags and valuables left in a parked car as shoppers head into stores.(Credit: CBS2)

The most common mistake, believe it or not, is leaving a key fob in the car.

“Ninety-seven percent of our high end vehicles that are stolen in Nassau already have that fob left in the vehicle.”

Key fobs are great technology but when you approach your car and they automatically unlock your doors – and that could invite danger.

 “As much as the vehicles are getting sophisticated, the criminals are getting more sophisticated,” police told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Police say:

  • Don’t approach your car if someone’s loitering nearby.
  • Use the panic button if you feel unsafe.
  • Don’t park next to a truck or van where you can’t been seen.
  • Don’t park so far away that security cameras won’t see you.
  • Don’t leave shopping bags in plain sight, then return for more shopping.
  • Put purchases in the trunk or cover them up.
  • Don’t carry a large handbag, that’s more likely to get left behind.

“I switched to a smaller purse… keep it front of me… I never ever put it in the car and walk away, I will move the car to another location,” shopper Denise Woodcheke said.

“I try to park close to the stores rather than far away and I always lock my car,” Peggy Gill added.

Police warn when someone steals your car or your handbag, they could also be stealing your identity. Don’t leave behind unnecessary identifying information in your car.

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