As we continue our countdown to and through the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, today I want to discuss the dangers presented when shopping with credit cards in brick and mortar stores. Credit cards are an easy way to shop, but they also present an easy way to become a victim of identity theft. Just recently the card swipe machines at many Barnes & Noble stores were disclosed to have been tampered with and many shoppers, including myself, were warned to be on the alert for identity theft because the identity thieves had captured the credit card information from these machines as well as debit card information and PINs.
Credit cards are still a good way to shop. However, to minimize your chance of becoming a victim of identity theft in a brick and mortar store, ask the clerk to run the credit card through his or her cash register in full view of you rather than using the card swipe machine which is easier for identity thieves to tamper with. In addition, whenever you make purchases in a retail store with a credit card, make sure that you keep your credit card in sight throughout the transaction so that a rogue clerk does not swipe your card through a small electronic device about the size of the palm of your hand that is called a “skimmer” that is used to capture the information imbedded in your credit card. Finally, don’t use debit cards for purchases because if you do become a victim of identity theft, you do not have the same protections and $50 limit on unauthorized purchases that you have with a credit card. Limit your debit card use to being used as an ATM card.