Q: I’m a bargain hunter and I love a great deal. I’m really looking forward to Black Friday, but I worry about the risks. I don’t want to get trampled or get into a fistfight with a fellow shopper. Also, I’m worried that my shopping bags will be stolen or that my debit card will be compromised. There’s so much that can go wrong! How can I protect myself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year?

A: While it’s true that Black Friday poses some risks to shoppers, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on any deals. With the proper safety measures and planning, you can happily join the crowds rushing to the mall this holiday season.

Here’s how to shop safe on Black Friday

1.) Plan Ahead

Black Friday is not the time for aimless browsing. Planning ahead means you’ll spend less. Also, you can get out of the store faster and decrease your risk of running into trouble. Sites like BlackFriday.com can help you plan your day. You can also read our article on the best apps for Black Friday deals.

2.) Debit Card Only

Debit cards are the best way to shop when there are high risks to your safety. You can always dispute a fraudulent charge but you can never get back stolen cash. You also won’t run up your credit card bill since the funds come directly out of your checking account.

3.) Shop with a Friend

There’s safety in numbers. The mall may be crowded, but a determined criminal can always find a way to corner you. They might empty your wallet or take your shopping bags if you’re alone. Crowds can make it impossible to find shoplifters after they’ve committed the crime. Stick with your friends at all times and never enter vacant areas alone.

4.) Keep Your Cool

It might be a great bargain, but nothing you purchase on Black Friday is worth your health or safety. Keep your priorities straight and avoid all fights with fellow shoppers. If things get ugly, that’s your cue to leave the store.

5.) Move Your Car

If you’re spending the day at a mall and keep bringing bags to your car, move it to a different spot every now and then. Believe it or not, thieves actually watch shoppers leaving the mall with a lot of bags. They may follow you out to see if you’re leaving shopping bags in your car. Once you’re back in the mall, they break into your car and steal your purchases. If you drive off, though, they’ll think you’re leaving and won’t follow you.

It’s also a good idea to hide your bags when they’re in your car. Nothing says, “break the window and take me!” like a bunch of shopping bags in the passenger seat. Keep your gifts hidden in your trunk. If you drive an SUV or another trunk-less car, keep your stuff in the back and cover it with a blanket.

6.) Online Safety

It’s always important to follow basic online safety rules, but Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for online scams. Here’s what to remember when shopping online:

Beware of Phishing Scams

Scammers know you have a ton of emails with receipts. They also know you’re less likely to check the safety of every email and link you receive. Don’t play their game. Be aware of suspicious-looking emails or links, and delete anything that doesn’t look right. If a site asks for more information than it should need for a purchase, leave your purchases and exit the site fast!

Make Sure Your Connection is Secure

Avoid scammers by using a secure connection. Verify security by looking for the padlock icon on your address bar and by using sites with the “S” on to the end of “http.”

Pay Securely

Only use trusted payment systems like PayPal or GoogleWallet when the option to use your debit card isn’t there. Shop from sites you know and trust. Make sure they’re legitimate by checking the URL of the site and looking out for sites that end in .org or .net. Never agree to wire money for a purchase.

Strengthen Your System

Before shopping online, check that your device’s security systems are updated with the most recent protection and security patches. If you’re using Wi-Fi, make sure the network is secure and requires a password to join.

Shop safely and wisely this Black Friday!