While Thanksgiving is still five days away, many people already have their hearts and minds focused on one of the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season although I have been seeing holiday shopping displays since Halloween. The fact that Black Friday is such a huge shopping day is not lost on scammers who will be as pervasive as ever. Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing the Scams of the day on the many holiday season scams about which we should all be aware.
If you are shopping in a brick and mortar store Friday or any other day throughout the year, you should use a credit card rather than a debit card because of the possibility of skimmers which are small devices being used by criminals working as sales clerks that will capture your credit card number which will then be used to make fraudulent purchases. Whenever possible you should use your chip credit card because it is not susceptible to skimmers, however, some retailers still don’t use chip technology so your credit card’s vulnerable magnetic strip will be used to process the purchase which makes it more susceptible to being hacked by a criminal. As for using your credit card rather than your debit card, it is important to remember that while your liability for fraudulent use of your credit card is limited by federal law to no more than $50, your liability for fraudulent use of your debit card which is tied to your bank account is unlimited if you do not promptly discover and report the fraud which is why you should always use your credit card for shopping rather than your debit card.
I will be discussing safe practices for online shopping in a future Scam of the day, but in the last couple of years the problem of what the FBI calls E-skimming has become more serious. E-skimming occurs when criminals infect the websites of numerous retailers in a manner that they are able to capture your credit card or debit card information when you enter it into the website. It is important to note that while your chip card will protect you if you use your chip card to make purchases at a brick and mortar store that has updated its credit card processing equipment to handle chip credit cards, you cannot use your chip for online purchases. However, as I indicated in the previous paragraph, the most you are responsible for if your credit card is used fraudulently is $50 and quite frankly I have never seen a credit card company even charge its customers that amount.
For the reasons discussed above, try to use your credit card as a chip card whenever possible and always watch your credit card when it is being processed at a brick and mortar store. Don’t let it out of your sight because that is when you run the risk of a rogue clerk running it through a portable skimmer, which will steal the number of your card. Refrain from using your debit card except as an ATM card. Finally, in regard to the E-skimming threat, you should regularly monitor your credit card statement online rather than waiting for a monthly paper bill to be delivered to you so that if your credit card was compromised and your data stolen, you will be able to discover and report the problem to your credit card issuer quickly and avoid more problems.
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