David Arduini of Colorado will spend the predawn hours of Black Friday tucked snuggly in bed. “I don't plan to go shopping on Black Friday,” he said. “It's just too crazy, and most of the time, I can find similar or better deals online. Let the others get up early and fight for those bargains! I'd rather stay home and get exactly what I want online!”
In Nevada, Carol Patrick’s friend Dave is just the opposite, “He has his list all ready, and times — he starts at one store at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, another at midnight and shops into the morning hours. He has a map. He hits sporting goods stores, hardware stores and big retailers. To him it’s all fun — he’s living for this day.”
Dave will have plenty of company. According to a survey conducted for BankRate, shoppers plan to hit the stores with vigor this year. A full 28 percent of Americans plan to shop in stores on Black Friday.
So how do you protect your identity while shopping? Here are 5 safety tips:
1. Back to Basics
On Black Friday you’ll be jostling in crowds, paying attention to merchandise instead of your wallet. Pickpockets are still a thing. Never carry your Social Security card. Carry only one credit or debit card to minimize damage if you are a victim. Have your information stored in a safe place so you can quickly report your card stolen before too much damage is done.
2. Stay off Public WiFi
Some savvy shoppers use apps on their phones while they’re in stores to price-check merchandise at other retailers. Resist the temptation to tap into free WiFi when it pops up. The connections are insecure and if you hit “buy” on a too-good-to-be-true deal that expires in just minutes, your bargain could be very costly.
3. Don’t Provide Unnecessary Information
Some sales clerks will request your phone number, zip code, email address or other personal identifying information before ringing up your purchase. Smile, and then politely decline. If they insist that it’s necessary, request that a manager come to override the register. The more information that a store collects from you, the more likely that you will become a victim of identity theft. If you’re paying with cash, they don’t need any identification. If you’re paying with a card, those companies already have your info.
4. Keep Track of Paperwork and Receipts
Some shoppers who purchase televisions or other electronics on Black Friday will also purchase extended warranties. The paperwork has everything on it that an identity thief needs to create serious headaches for you. Keep track of warranties, receipts with your signature and other paperwork that can be traced to you.
5. Avoid Cell Phone Card Readers
Small businesses love those little card readers that attach to their smart phones. They’re often cheaper than hard wired credit card readers, they’re portable and sales data downloads into bookkeeping software. The companies that make the readers all claim to use encryption, but their safety ratings vary. Play it safe — use cash when you see a cell phone credit card reader.
When you return home from shopping, check your online statements to make sure that all purchases are accurate, and then continue to monitor your cards and bank accounts. If you find that you’ve been a victim, make a police report right away. You’ll need the report to clear your name.