'Tis the Season to Protect Your Identity: In-Store Shopping Security (Part 2)

Alayna Okerlund

Last Updated: April 8th, 2021

This is part two of our holiday shopping security article series

The holidays are just around the corner which means hundreds of thousands of people are starting to check off their holiday shopping lists. As mentioned in part one of this series, the sheer amount of easy-target holiday shoppers tend to draw out ruthless identity thieves and cyber criminals.

To help holiday shoppers arm themselves against cyber- and identity-related threats, we asked some experts to provide advice regarding holiday shopping security.

In-store shopping

Dr. William Rials, Associate Director and Professor of Applied Computing and Technology at Tulane University School of Professional Advancement

"Avoid connecting to the store’s public Wi-Fi. During busy holiday criminals will use public Wi-Fi to scan potential victims. Also, many criminals will deploy fake Wi-Fi hotspots that offer free internet but are actually used to steal your personal information. It is challenging to spot the malicious Wi-Fi hotspots; use your cellular internet if you are not in a trusted and secure Wi-Fi zone.

Standard safety measures for in-store also apply for online shopping. The best recommendation is to use retailers that are well-known and have a positive reputation. Take a minute to view their website and make sure that they have actual contact information listed.
Avoid paying for merchandise by credit/debit cards when shopping at the unknown pop-up retailers that only show up during the holiday season; try paying cash instead.
Avoid the temptation to save X% on your purchase if you apply for their store-specific credit card that day only. If the credit decision has to be made in haste or quickly, it could be to gain access to your personal information, especially from an unknown retailer."
Tom Kelly, President and CEO of ID Experts
"When braving the stores for holiday deals, it's important shoppers hide their pin numbers from view and, if possible, use a credit card or cash to be extra cautious. Missing mail, inaccurate notices of debts, and bounced checks are all signs of identity theft. Identity protection services like MyIDCare are an essential tool to combat scams because they notify members the instant suspicious activity occurs on their accounts that could suggest their identity has been stolen."

Steve Weisman, Scam, Identity Theft Expert, and Owner of Scamicide.com

"When shopping in a brick and mortar store, try to go to stores that use the more secure chip credit cards rather than those that still use the magnetic stripe. The chip cards are much more secure. Shopping in stores that still use the magnetic stripe credit cards leaves you in danger of a rogue employee taking your credit card and swiping it through a small skimmer to steal the information from your card to use for their own purchases. Keep your card in sight whenever you make a purchase to avoid this problem."

Victor Congionti, CEO of Proven Data

"When shopping in-store, thieves use skimmer technology to steal your credit card numbers via the transaction terminal. Inspect where you are inserting your card and make sure there is nothing suspicious about the device."

Steven Hausman, President of Hausman Technology Presentations

"When shopping in a brick and mortar store, then it is advisable to never let your credit card be out of your sight and your physical possession. Swipe the card yourself or use one of the contactless payment methods like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay, and the like. This means that you will not even have to take your credit card out of your wallet since you will be using your smartphone for payment.
Use cash or credit to shop instead of debit. Credit cards provide protection against fraud by legislation. If someone steals your debit card number they can obtain cash immediately from your bank account, and there is not the same level of protection against fraud.
Resist the temptation to open a new credit card account at a retailer simply to obtain a discount on a purchase because you may be asked to provide a Social Security number that can be copied down by the sales associate and used to steal your identity.
Check where you’re being asked to insert your credit card since a 'skimmer' may be attached that would steal your credit card and PIN information."
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