‘Tis the season of shopping. Cyber-Monday has just passed and news flashes indicate that the total amount consumers purchased online on Monday will exceed $3 billion. Wow. All with credit cards.

We all use our credit cards more during the holidays than any other time of year. As a result, it is a prime time for scammers and fraudsters to steal credit card information. Remember the Target breach? It happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here are some tips to consider this holiday season (and all year long).

  • Use cash whenever possible. Cash is still King, and your identity can’t be stolen when using cash.
  • Limit the number of credit cards that you apply for. It is very tempting when the clerk at the checkout line asks you if you want to save 15% on your purchase by applying for the store credit card. Some say yes on the spot, because, well, saving 15% on your purchase could be significant. But as soon as you say “yes,” the clerk slides a credit card application form for you to fill out. And guess what? It asks for your Social Security number because they will want to do a credit check. So you are giving your full Social Security number to a stranger on a piece of paper that you don’t know where it is being sent, who is seeing it, or how it is being secured. The same is true for walking by salesmen trying to get you to apply for an airline credit card in airports. Be smart about these offers and know that you have to give your personal information to strangers to get the deal.
  • Limit the number of credit cards that you use. Do you really need a credit card in every store? Do you really want every store to hold (and potentially breach) your personal information, including your Social Security number? Pick a card that you will use primarily and keep track of your purchases so it is easier to follow the statement and determine whether or not there are any unauthorized charges on your statement.
  • Closely monitor your credit card statements every month and make sure there are no unauthorized charges.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you keep in your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will have to remember every card you had in your wallet to cancel the account. The more you have, the more of a hassle it is to cancel the accounts.
  • If you lose your credit card, cancel the account immediately.
  • Only use one credit card for online shopping. If the credit card is compromised during an online purchase, you will know exactly which credit card it is so you can close that account quickly.
  • While shopping, don’t let others use your credit card or borrow your credit card and put your credit card back into your wallet or purse after each purchase. It is easy to lose if you put it in your pocket or jacket or leave it on the counter. There have actually been reports of fraudsters standing near checkout lines and writing down credit card numbers.
  • When you no longer need them, shred your credit card receipts.

Safe shopping and hope these help!