This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.
Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving, millions of Americans will be braving the crowds and heading
out to malls, big-box stores, and local merchants looking to take advantage of seasonal discounts.
Are you ready? You are building your shopping lists, checking your credit card balances, scanning for can't miss deals, and planning your shopping itineraries. You may have even installed new apps that can automatically scan and compare prices to make sure you are getting the best deal.
But what about cybersecurity? How safe are you when you are holiday shopping? Here are some things to consider when you are out and about during the 2017 holiday shopping season.
1. Safe Shopping
Shopping today requires a number of electronic transactions, whether you are swiping your credit card or pulling cash out of the ATM. Of course, data breaches and identity theft continue to be a problem. But when you are making purchases elbow to elbow with a mob of other shoppers, you need to be more careful than ever.
Here are a few things to be on the lookout for. If you see any of these things, our advice is that you may want to pay with cash, use a different machine, move to a different cashier, or shop somewhere else. And let someone know.
ATM and credit card skimmers
Whether you are getting cash from your ATM, buying gas, or swiping your card at the store, the holiday season always sees a spike credit card usage - as well as a spike in having that credit card data stolen. The problem is that we are in a hurry, there is a crush of people around us, we have been standing in line forever, and we just want to make our purchase and get in the car. But being careful only takes a few seconds. Here are few things to keep in mind:
There are a number of different ways that criminals can steal your credit card data. Skimmers are electronic devices that are designed to either slide on top of or over an existing card reader, or can be inserted into the card reader slot in something like an ATM or gas pump. They look remarkably like the original credit card reader, but they capture your credit card data and PIN when you make your transaction.
What to look for:
- "We've been having trouble with that card reader all day." That may be true. It also may be because a skimmer has been placed on that reader that uses those extra card swipes to capture your data before letting you make your purchase. You might want go to another line or rethink your purchase.
- Look for signs of tampering. Are the colors or materials on the device consistent? Are the graphics aligned? Are there gaps or seams between components? Do components line up exactly? Is there any damage around the card slot that might indicate that it was forcefully removed or replaced?
- Hide your PIN. Some skimmers have a pinhole camera located nearby to capture your PIN. They can be disguised as anything. Best practice is to cover the keypad with one hand while entering your PIN with the other.
- Compare devices. Does the device you are using look like the ones around it? Check colors, flashing lights, size of the device, materials used, etc.
- Wiggle everything. ATMs and credit card machines are designed to withstand thousands of users. They don't have loose parts or components. If the cover moves, the keypad is loose, the card slot wiggles or moves when you push on it or when you insert your card, or anything feels less than industrial grade, move on.
- Check to see if the tamper-proof tape on the credit card component placed on many gas pumps and public ATMs is intact. Most will display a VOID message if they have been tampered with or removed. And if there is no tape on your pump, look to see if there is tape on other pumps. If there is, use another device.
- Use your credit card rather than your debit card as it provides you with fraud protection.
- Report what you find. Most ATMS have a phone number to report something suspicious, and cashiers and store managers need to be alerted. It's the holiday season - take a few minutes to help the next shopper in line.
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