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Ways to Protect Your Identity this Black Friday

Many consumers are taking to social media, vowing not to shop on Thanksgiving this year so that employees can stay home and spend the holiday with their families. And it appears the stores are hearing their call.

Already a long list of big-name stores have announced they will close on Thanksgiving —  though most will likely open bright and early the next day for Black Friday.

The stores vowing to stay closed include Costco, American Girl, Barnes & Noble, Marshalls, Home Depot, GameStop, H&M Clothing, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1 Imports, REI and others.

Still others have already announced what time their doors will open on Thanksgiving, such as JC Penney, Walmart, Best Buy, Macys, Sears, Target, Kohls and more. Target's CEO went so far as to declare that Black Friday shopping is as much of an American family tradition as the Thanksgiving meal.

This seems to have started a couple of new trends that many experts say will allow consumers to still cash in on the Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals without leaving the comfort of their homes and dinner tables — early online sales.

For example, Toys R Us has announced its Black Friday deals will begin almost a full week early, on Sunday, Nov. 22, online for members of its rewards program, which includes roughly 19 million shoppers. Dick's Sporting Goods and Amazon have already begun their pre-Black Friday sales online.

Walmart has said that 96 percent of its Thanksgiving weekend deals will be offered online beginning at 3:01 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, though its brick-and-mortar stores don't open until 6 p.m.

Other big-name retailers like Restoration Hardware are offering additional incentives for shopping online, like $100 off for every $500 spent, or flat-rate discounts of around 15 percent.

Additionally, the New York Times says many retailers are opting to extend their Black Friday deals well past the holiday weekend in an effort to unload even more inventory before the year's end.

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Safety Concerns About Black Friday Shopping

If thieves are searching for their latest score, a Black Friday sale undoubtedly offers a smorgasbord of victims, ripe for the robbing. Here are five ways to keep yourself especially protected, whether you plan to shop online or brave the store crowds.

  • 1.Carry as little with you as possible. Pick-pockets are a very real threat, even in today's digital age. Definitely don't carry your Social Security card with you in your wallet, and try to carry only one credit card for all your shopping, to minimize damage if you should get robbed.
  • 2.Stay off public WiFi. By all means, use in-store apps and online or email coupons to maximize your deals, but resist the temptation to sign onto public WiFi when it pops up. That is one place hackers are more likely to troll for their latest victims.
  • 3.Don't provide sales clerks with unnecessary information. It's common for stores to ask their employees to ask for a zip code or email address when ringing up customers' purchases. Politely decline—and stick to your guns. If they persist, ask to speak to a manager who can override the system. The more information you give out, the more likely you are to become a victim of identity theft.
  • 4.Avoid cell phone card readers. For smaller or independent stores, those little readers that attach to the salesperson's smartphone or tablet are cheaper than buying a professional-grade credit card machine, but encryption and other cyber safety measures can vary widely for the companies behind them. Play it safe—if that's the only method of credit card purchase they offer, pay cash.
  • 5.Consider using PayPal for online purchases. You don't have to have money in your PayPal account—just sync your credit card to your PayPal account. When you pay, it will be charged right to your credit card with no added fees, and you'll even get extra tracking and online receipts. Why is it safer? Instead of having to type in your credit card number on the website you're shopping on, all you have to do is enter your PayPal login information. That offers the extra security against hackers who may be monitoring your online activity or may be breaching a store's firewalls.

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