Be vigilant when filling holiday season gift list.

For some, 'tis the season to be selfish.

Consider that to be the mantra for many culprits who set out to ruin the holidays for others.

Law enforcement authorities know the trend all too well.

When Christmas draws near, many thieves get busy.

The holiday shopping season often presents ideal opportunities for criminals, as gifts too often are left visible in vehicles and homes.

Thieves have been known to cruise parking lots at busy retail locations in search of easy prey. So, remember to park in well-lit areas.

It's also good to avoid putting gifts under the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve to keep would-be burglars peering through windows from spotting a possible target.

And, shoppers should avoid distractions such as talking or texting on cell phones while walking to their vehicles, and be aware of their surroundings. A thief can snatch a package and be gone in an instant.

Law enforcement experts also point to a proliferation of cyber crimes and scams, and recommend that consumers not buy anything online unless it's from well-known companies.

Such Grinch-like crimes also tend to reflect a time of economic challenges for some.

When people struggle financially, they may get desperate. Crime rises as a result.

Sadly, people struggling to make ends meet and who wouldn't otherwise commit a crime may resort to theft to provide gifts for their family.

While their financial hardships may be real, that's no excuse to steal from retailers, workplaces or other innocent victims.

Such selfish acts hurt even more at a time local churches and organizations such as the Emmaus House and Salvation Army and the many generous folks who donate to such charities during the year try to provide food, gifts and more for the needy.

When someone gets away with a theft, others are left to pay for the loss in terms of higher prices.

Worse yet, thieves' efforts sometimes mean families must scramble at the last minute for gifts, or go without on Christmas.

Knowing the holiday spirit isn't shared by all, it's necessary to be even more careful this time of year.