It’s hard to believe, but in just a few days, we’ll be marking the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season: Black Friday. Over the years, some fans of Black Friday have decided to forgo the craziness and look for deals online on Cyber Monday. However, for those of you who can’t get enough of the early store openings and outrageous deals, Black Friday is still something you look forward to each year.
As you develop your “game plan” for Black Friday and figure out which stores you’re going to descend upon, it’s also a good idea to think about how you’re going to protect your identity. During Black Friday, identity theft concerns can run rampant, because thieves can count on stores being filled with unsuspecting shoppers who are concentrating more on getting 50% off a flat screen TV than their personal security. Don’t feel nervous or like you need to miss out on your favorite “holiday;” just plan ahead and keep these tips in mind:
- Use cash or pre-paid cards – If you’re like many people, you’re a fan of using a debit or credit card when you’re out shopping. It’s quick and easy, and if it’s a credit card, you can worry about paying later. Unfortunately, Black Friday is prime time for identity theft, as thieves may hack into the POS systems at major retail stores. They know the stores are going to be extremely busy and that cards are going to be swiped thousands of times over the course of the day, so they install malware that allows them to steal every bit of credit card info that comes through. Don’t take the chance on Black Friday — bring plenty of cash with you, or get a prepaid credit card before the big day.
- Watch your wallet – When you’re in the moment and focused on getting everything on your list as quickly as possible, the last thing on your mind is your purse or wallet. Remember that, on Black Friday, identity theft isn’t just perpetrated by invisible hackers that steal your information online; they are real, living, breathing people who also target individuals out in public. While you’re busy doing something on Black Friday, they may be slipping your wallet out of your back pocket and going home with it. In addition to having to replace everything in your wallet, you’ll have a cloud of uncertainty hanging over your head all the time as you wait to see if they use your personal information in any way.
- Be careful online – Some of Black Friday has migrated from brick and mortar stores to online shops as well. Only shop on secure websites (they’ll have the lock at the beginning of the URL and/or start with https) and don’t click links in e-mails (even if they look legitimate). Just be alert and aware of everything you’re doing because it can make a big difference in the long run.
A great deal of keeping your personal information away from identity thieves is vigilance. Be aware of your surroundings — both offline and online — and trust your gut. Make good identity theft prevention habits part of your daily life, and you’ll have a much better chance of staying protected.
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