Black Friday is one of, if not the, most important shopping days of the year for stores AND those scrupulous fraudsters and identity theft predators. Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself. If you do become a victim of fraud or identity theft, a few of these tips will help you realize sooner rather than later.
1. Carry only one credit or debit card and one photo ID
2. In connection to #1, do not randomly use your cards. Try to use only one card for the entire shopping experience. Keep all receipts.
· If you do use multiple cards, which is not suggested, note the time, amount, store, and location of each purchase. Again, keep track of all receipts.
3. Be vigilant. Be aware of those just standing around watching.
· Men: Do not tap the pocket which has your money and/or wallet when you see a suspicious person or when someone bumps into you – YOU ARE TELLING EVERYONE where your possessions are located on your person.
· Ladies: Make sure you keep your wallet closed and purse zipped. Do not leave your purse or receipts unattended at any time. Keep your purse on your person rather than in a cart, on the floor, or in the hands of a child.
4. When carrying a mobile phone, clear you cache’, online temporary files, and saved passwords. If your phone is stolen, it is the perfect tool for identity thieves to have access to bank information, passwords, credit card numbers, family contacts, birthdates, etc.
5. Be sure to check your bank account online (from a home or secure computer), AS SOON AS you get home AND at least once per day over the week following.
6. Keep a good record of your purchase and all your receipts. If you use the ATM, keep the receipts even if you usually discard them.
7. Make sure the receipts are not marked “DUPLICATE” when you receive them.
· If they are marked “DUPLICATE” question why and ask what was done with the original receipt
8. WATCH to see where your card is being swiped. Make sure the card is only swiped once and in only one machine
9. If there is an error when the card was originally swiped and it needs to be re-swiped, make a note (even if only a mental note) of the time, the store, the register, and the person doing the transactions.
10. While it is great to look nice while at the mall, leave the high-end jewelry at home. Opt for fashion accessories rather than the diamonds.
· Thieves and fraudsters prey on those who look like they have money and plentiful credit limits.
BONUS: When using a debit card with a PIN, be strict about the 3 feet rule. If someone is standing close enough to see your card number, maneuver the device so they cannot see or politely ask the person to move. This includes the salesperson.
1. Make sure you have good internet security software such as McAfee Secure or Symantec.
2. Keep track of occurrences where you had to enter information in more than once.
3. Only use secure and familiar sites.
4. Don’t open links you are unsure of – even if they came from a friend or family member. Beware of links on social media sites and sent via email.
5. Enable pop-up blockers in addition to your internet security software.
6. Check your bank account frequently.
7. Make sure you only use a trusted computer.
8. Do NOT shop from your mobile phone.
9. See if your bank has secure keys. Secure key are used to protect your identity and your card number when making online purchases. Bank of America and Citbank, for example, have very good fraud protection packages at little to no cost to customers
10. Be aware and go with your gut. If it feels like there is something wrong, then leave the site.
These tips are not exhaustive. They are only a starting point. The more aware you are of your possessions and your surroundings, the less likely you are to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. Your awareness acts as a deterrance.
Tonisha Pinckney is a certified fraud examiner and a certified forensic financial analyst specializing in forensic accounting and investigative methodology.