Got your eye on any Christmas presents this Black Friday? So do data criminals… but it’s not that flat-screen TV that they’re eying. Since Target’s huge data breach in 2013 (coincidentally during Black Friday and Cyber Monday) where credit card information for up to 110 million was compromised, participating in the shop-happy holiday has become a little risky. As you navigate the millions of Black Friday deals, follow these tips to keep your identity safe.
Pay in Cash
If you know exactly what you’re purchasing this Black Friday, then think about paying in cash. While this takes some preparations, and makes it difficult when you want to make an unplanned purchase, it completely protects your credit and debit card information from being stolen.
Choose Legitimate Stores
Even if you physically go into a store on Black Friday (rather than shopping online), be aware that your information isn’t 100% safe. No matter how good the deal is, it’s not worth losing your identity or credit card information over it. As you look for deals on a new laptop, keep in mind where you’re purchasing it from; Choose stores that you trust. If you wouldn’t purchase your laptop from them at full price, don’t do it at ½ off.
Update your Computer’s Firewall
Credit card information isn’t the only thing cyber thieves are after – they could be looking for access to your computer or passwords. If you’re planning on participating in Cyber Monday (or Amazon’s big Black Friday sale) make sure to update your computer before shopping. Check to see if you have the latest firewall protections and be wary of using public Wi-Fi spots.
Change your PIN Number
To be extra safe, consider changing your credit or debit card’s PIN numbers after the holiday. Keep a paper trail of all the purchases you made and check your bank balance regularly. When in doubt, take advantage of your free annual credit report.
Get Credit Monitoring
In the wake of Equifax’s huge data breach a few months ago, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into credit monitoring. By utilizing credit monitoring services, you insure that you stay up-to-date on your personal information and receive notifications if something appears wrong. From ongoing credit applications scanning to credit score updates, this tool can not only help protect your identity, but help you figure out how to increase your credit score.
While you’re certainly going to want to do whatever you can to protect your identity and personal information during the holiday months, be aware that these types of cyber thieves don’t normally go out of their way to steal a specific person’s identity. As long as you stay mindful about your purchases and vigilantly use safe shopping practices, then your Black Friday experience should be hacker free. Happy shopping!