Holiday Safety Shopping Tips – Protect yourself and your identity
It’s that time of year when customers will be out in full force in the stores and spending online. I want to provide you a few tips to protect your information from identity thieves who will be ready and waiting for you as well as give general ideas for physical safety when shopping in a public venue.
If we’re anything alike, you eschew the grind of mall shopping and do the majority of your present purchasing in the comfort of your own home. Wine? Check. Laptop? Check. Credit card? Check. Forget about the crowds and craziness. Tips for shopping online while protecting your identity are pretty simple.
First, make sure your internet connection is secure. Are you using public wi-fi? Your information is not secure. Anyone sitting in that coffee shop or fast food restaurant can pull your financial information with the right knowledge and technology. Don’t shop or bank from public wi-fi. Period.
Next, I recommend shopping well-known stores with good reputations. Anyone can throw a website up on the internet and charge you money for a product. Will they deliver? Check the reputation of any store where you’ve not shopped before. Google them. Ask your friends. If in doubt, do not buy. Same goes with eBay: check the seller’s reputation. If they have poor feedback, don’t buy from them.
Finally, Once you’ve found the store from which you’d like to buy, be sure your information is safe during checkout by noting the https:// on their website address or by a padlock in the lower right of your browser screen. The preference is that your information is encrypted when sent over the internet to the seller. Once again, staying with reputable sellers over the internet will likely bring with it encrypted checkout.
I can’t stress awareness enough when it comes to your surroundings. This applies both to your physical safety and protecting your identity and financial information from identity thieves. People often joke about forgetting where they parked their car, and yet its that lost person who looks great to muggers and thieves. If you’re too busy trying to find your car or digging through pockets or purse to find keys or shopping list, attackers can peg you right off the bat as a victim. If you’re just hopeless and all parking lanes look the same to you no matter what you do, then try downloading a parking locator app to your cell phone or at least park right under a light to cut down your time being lost. If in doubt, you can always take along a shopping partner. Finally, for those greatly concerned for their safety, ask for security to escort you to your vehicle, especially if you’re weighed down with packages, which can also be a safety issue. If you note a flat tire on your vehicle, immediately re-enter the store and call for assistance from that safe venue. Thieves have often used a flat tire ruse to approach and “offer assistance”… and then attack.
Once in a store, we’d all like to think that we can trust the employees. Unfortunately, theft by employees is not uncommon. Scamming and identity theft by employees is also on the rise. Be sure not to be distracted during checkout and watch your checker. Whether at the grocery store or a department store, its simple for a checker to scan an item more than once, unbeknownst to the customer. Over an entire day, those little scans add up for the thief. Another scam to watch out for at the register is being short-changed. Simple and easy to detect. Finally, and most importantly, is watching what the cashier does with your credit card for the entire time its within their possession. Many customers simply hand over their credit card and begin chatting with a friend or the next person in line or checking their cell phone. During times of distraction like this, cashiers have total access to your credit card to scan for your order and then take down damaging information. For example, the old method of simply writing down the credit card information on front and back still work as well as using a piece of paper over the card and scratching a pencil over the raised numbers in order to steal the information. In the age of smart phones with cameras, however, its become painfully quick and easy to snap an image of the front and back of the card. Make sure you know where your card is at all times when its not in your possession.
Now you know to be aware of your credit card, but what about your wallet? Identity thieves are now capable of simply using a small RFID reader within your vicinity and pull your financial information from your credit card – even while its in your purse, pocket or wallet. To prevent against this there are a wide variety of wallets on the market to protect against scanning. From the small RFID aluminum wallets to the executive lined versions, there’s no reason to ignore the threat. Get yourself an RFID protective wallet and protect your information. I recommend amazon.com to see a broad variety for men and women.
What about the old-school pick-pockets? They’re still at work and the hustle and bustle make life easier for them. We’re used to getting bumped occasionally during holiday shopping, expecting an “Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry”. Occasionally, that “oops” moment is a bump and run of a pick-pocket, seeking your wallet. If anyone brushes against you, bumps you, etc, while shopping, be sure to check your wallet. Try not to let them see you checking your wallet in case it was a test run by a pick-pocketer’s partner to find out where your wallet is on your person. If you carry a wallet in a pocket, try a front pocket while shopping. If you carry a wallet in a purse, be sure to close your purse and not leave it open to swift hands.
Finally, I’ll reiterate that awareness is your best friend and knowledge is power. Put them together to keep yourself a bit more safe this holiday season.