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‘Tis The Season for Identify Theft: Stay Safe and Guard Your Card when Holiday Shopping This Year

Deb Berlyn - President, Consumer Policy Solutions

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‘Tis The Season for Identify Theft: Stay Safe and Guard Your Card when Holiday Shopping This Year

Shopping Around Town?

•Protect your PIN! Last year on Thanksgiving and Black Friday consumers spent $12.3 billion in "brick-and-mortar" stores around the country. If you use a debit card, make sure you use your hand to shield the key-pad when entering your PIN at the register. People often referred to as "shoulder surfers" cruise popular shopping destinations trying to get a look at PINs over peoples' shoulders. (CNN Money)

•Use a credit card for your purchases. Credit card fraud amounted to 17% of all identity theft in 2013, but many credit cards now offer fraud protection in case your information is compromised. (FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, February 2014)

•Hold on to your receipts. In 2012, 45% of identity theft and identity theft victims only discovered their theft after being contacted by a financial institution. It can be hard to keep up with all of your purchases during the holiday season, so take a little extra time to compare your receipts to your statement and make sure everything adds up. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

•DO NOT carry your Social Security Card in your purse or wallet. Over 13 million Americans were victims of identity theft across the United States in 2013 and breaches involving Social Security numbers can be particularly damaging. Don't give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary – and never online. Your Social Security number is a gift to identity thieves, so keep it to yourself. (Consumer Federation of America)

•Better safe than sorry. Identity theft was the number one complaint category at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement for the 14th year in a row in 2013, accounting for 14% of all complaints. If you are about to order that perfect gift from a website you're not sure is 100% safe and a reputable vendor, DON'T DO IT! Trust your instincts. Remember – if a deal looks too good to be true, it most likely is! (FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, February 2014)

THE THREAT IS REAL. Today, government institutions, large banks, retailers, and American consumers are targets for cyber-attacks originating in our country and abroad. While we need more robust cybersecurity measures to protect personal and financial information, we also need frontline measures like computer chip-equipped credit cards that require consumers to enter a PIN. To date, the nation's largest financial institutions have been slow to adopt these more secure cards even though they are more effective at stopping criminals who try to use stolen banking and credit card information and can reduce payment card fraud.

It's time for better protections, so let's urge our bank or credit card companies to issue chip and PIN-equipped cards in the U.S. for safer shopping.