How Can I Shop Safely On Black Friday?

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Q: I love Black Friday but I worry about the risks. With the possibility of being trampled or of my credit card being compromised, there’s so much that can go wrong! How can I protect myself without missing out on the biggest shopping day of the year.

A: Black Friday does pose some serious risks to shoppers, but with the proper safety measures, you can happily join the bargain-hungry crowds on November 24.

Here’s how:

1.) Plan ahead

Planning ahead means you’ll spend less, be out of line faster and decrease your risks. Sites like can help you plan your day and find the best deals.

2.) Credit card only

Credit cards are the best way to shop when there are high risks to your safety. You can always dispute a charge; you can never reclaim stolen cash. Also, keep your card as close to you as possible. If using a debit card, cover the payment terminal with your other hand when inputting your PIN. 

3.) Shop with a friend

The mall may be crowded, but a determined criminal can find a way to corner you and empty your wallet or take your bags. Stick with your friends and never enter deserted areas alone.

4.) Keep your cool

Nothing you can purchase on Black Friday is worth your health or safety. Avoid all scuffles with fellow shoppers.

5.) Move your car

If you spend the day at the mall and routinely drop off your bags in your car, it’s best to move your car to a different spot. Thieves may be watching shoppers leave the mall with lots of bags and follow them to their cars. If they see you dropping off your goodies and then heading back to the mall, they’ll consider making off with your things. If you drive off, though, they’ll think you’re leaving and won’t follow you.

6.) Online safety

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are notorious for online scams of every kind. Here’s what to remember when shopping online:

  • Beware of phishing scams

Be alert for suspicious looking emails and links. Delete anything that doesn’t look right.

  • Make sure your connection is secure

Verify security by looking for the padlock icon on the address bar and by using sites with an “S” tacked on to the “http.”

  • Pay securely

Only use trusted payment systems like PayPal or Google Wallet. Shop from sites you trust and make sure they’re legitimate by checking the URL and looking out for sites that end in .org or .net. Never agree to wire money for a purchase.

  • Strengthen your system

Before shopping online, check that your device’s security systems are updated with the most recent protection and security patches. If you’re using Wi-Fi, make sure the network is secure and requires a password to join.

 Now that you’re armed with tips to tackle Black Friday, do you have any other tips for safe shopping this time of year? Share them with us in the comments!

4 Ways to Reduce Your Vulnerability to Identity Theft

iStock_000012554417XSmallThe holiday season is upon us, and with the holidays comes a spike in identity theft. Are you taking the necessary precautions to minimize your risk? Here are some questions and tips to make sure you protect yourself.

Q1. Do you check your credit report every four months? If not, there could be fraudulent accounts on your report that you’re unaware of.

T1. Get your free credit report every four months and dispute any suspicious activity! Use the guideline below:

  • October – Equifax
  • February – TransUnion
  • June – Experian

Q2. Do you shred all incoming junk mail and outgoing garbage that includes your name, address and any other identifying information about you? If not, identity thieves could be collecting your mail and gathering information on you.

T2. Consider getting a Cross Cut shredder and a secured mailbox that only opens with a key. You can purchase one at your local home improvement store.

Q3. Do you reconcile your bank and credit accounts monthly? If not, you aren’t going to catch identity theft as quickly as you could!

T3. Reconcile your account statements every month. This will ensure you’re the only one spending your money. Catching fraud early can help you catch the perpetrator and stop the theft before you’re put in a really tight spot. Not sure how to do so? Click here to learn how to reconcile your bank statement.

Q4. Do you carry your Social Security card in your wallet? If so, you’re certainly at risk! Identity thieves only need three or four pieces of information to get going. A social security number with your name and date of birth or address can go a long way for a thief.

T4. Keep your Social Security card somewhere safe and locked rather than in your wallet. This way you’re not handing someone who steals your wallet everything he or she might need to steal your identity.