Protection strategies for holiday shopping

You’re in line when a woman cuts in front of you. You politely tell her that she wrongly took your place; she then threatens to shoot you or anyone else who objects.

It sounds like a violent scene from a movie, but this event happened outside a Toys ‘R’ Us store only last year during Black Friday shopping. The day is filled with anticipation for the best deals and the greatest holiday gifts for our friends and family. But participating in the festivities can be risky on several fronts.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid the perils of in-store holiday shopping:

• Always be aware of the people around you. If activities and behaviors seem to be escalating into a violent or dangerous situation, get out immediately.

• Keep your cell phone handy in the event you need to notify police of an incident.

• Make sure you aren’t followed to your car; thieves have been known to take purchased merchandise from shoppers in parking lots.

• Put your cash or cards away immediately after using them, which will decrease your risk of dropping them – right into the hands of an identity thief. Keep your wallet or purse with you at all times, rather than in a shopping cart or basket.

Or you can shop online. It’s safer, and you can do it in the comfort of your pajamas. Follow these tips:

• Use credit before debit. Credit cards are more likely to cap fraudulent charges if fraud is reported. A thief could wipe out your checking account before you know it, and you might have no recourse.

• Consider using disposable credit cards so your number cannot be traced – and re-used – by identity thieves. You likely can order them through your financial institution.

• Don’t store your credit information on a shopping site. It’s faster the next time you check out, but store sites are big targets for hackers who want your credit information.

• Watch out for spamming ads, deals that are too good to be true, and e-mails from unknown senders claiming they need bank information from you. Do not respond to these solicitations!

More tips to prevent identity theft.