Before you brave the stores this Black Friday with a list of gifts you’d like to find for loved ones, check this list twice: a rundown of very simple ways identity thieves can snatch your personal information on this hectic shopping day.
1. People Lurking in Parking Lots
Identity thieves have been known to lurk in parking lots, particularly during busy shopping days like Black Friday, and watch shoppers leaving their cars. Knowing these shoppers will likely be gone for an extended period of time, the thieves target the cars once they're vacant.
To stay safe, consider parking close to the store or shopping mall whenever possible. It also helps to choose high-traffic areas like those near elevators or spots that are under bright lights. Be sure to leave any valuables, like checkbooks, credit and debit cards and other personal information, in a safe place at home.
2. Thieves Preying on Your Social Network Updates
Be mindful about what you share on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. A post that says you’re “shopping at Macy's,” for example, or a photo shared on Instagram displaying a crowded store, could be a tip-off to thieves that you’re not home. Unfortunately, home break-ins are common during this time of year, so it pays to be cautious about what you share to the online world.
3. Watch Out for Pickpockets
Pickpockets are another easy way you could quickly find your personal information and valuables stolen. These individuals often target busy areas, such as crowded malls and Santa sightings. Carry with you only the personal items that are essential, and keep them tucked away in a safe place.
4. Misplacing Personal Items
It may sound silly, but it’s easy to misplace personal items like smartphones or even your wallet when you’re rushing to grab the last TV on sale or running to the next store before all the deals are gone. Be sure not to leave these important items in your shopping cart, at the checkout counter or at any another spot you’ve stopped at while shopping.
5. Suspicious People In the Checkout Line
Scammers have been known to use their smartphones to snap pictures of shoppers’ credit cards or other personal information from a distance in the checkout line. Always be on the look out for those standing near you when you check out or use the ATM, and make sure no one — besides the retailer’s employee — has a clear view of your personal data.
Also be careful about who overhears you when you share personal info, such as your email address or phone number, usually at the retail employee’s request as they complete your purchase — and don’t forget that it is perfectly fine to opt out of providing this info.
6. Being More Vulnerable to Data Breaches by Using Debit Instead of Credit
In the event of a major retail data breach, those using credit cards, rather than debit, are better protected. Exercise caution this holiday shopping season and use credit when possible.