Today is Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year and the kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season. There are many scams that attempt to turn our holiday awareness into scams. They include malware contaminated e-cards, phony charitable solicitations and, of course a myriad of shopping related scams. Over the next few weeks, I will be warning you about these scams and telling you what you can do to protect yourselves.
For those people shopping in the malls and stores around the country today, remember to use your credit card instead of your debit card. While federal law limits the amount for which you are liable when fraudulent charges are made using your credit card to no more than $50, with a debit card, if you do not recognize that your account has been compromised right away, the identity thief could potentially empty the entire bank account tied to your debit card. In addition, even if you do notice the fraudulent use immediately, your account will be frozen while the bank does its investigation into the matter, thereby limiting your access to your funds.
Also, if you are using your credit card in a store that is not equipped to take the EMV chip credit card, be on the lookout for skimmers, which are small devices that a criminal uses to steal your credit card information by swiping the card through a portable skimmer before running it through the store’s credit card processing equipment. In addition, some skimmers are surreptitiously installed on the credit card equipment of the stores and other times, the store’s processing equipment has been hacked to steal this information as your card is being processed. Keep an eye on your credit card every minute that the clerk has it in his or her possession to make sure that he or she only swipes it through the store’s credit card processor and doesn’t do that extra swipe through a skimmer. Also, check your credit card account balance periodically online to detect if there have been any security breaches. Don’t wait for your monthly statement.