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Fraud is as much a part of the holidays as bright decorations and warm family gatherings. While shoppers hunt for gifts, thieves are hunting victims.


Consumers must remain vigilant to outpace technology designed to steal their personal information, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Extension resource management specialist.


“Memorizing your debit or credit card PIN, or personal identification number, is only the first step,” Clampet said. “Shielding others from watching as you input your PIN and making a habit of putting away your card immediately after every transaction are a few simple ways you can protect yourself.”


Online shoppers should make sure they are on a secure site. The web addresses for secure sites usually begin with the letters “https,” and sites with secure portals advertise that feature. Sticking to better-known online retailers also can boost consumers’ chances of a safe and authentic shopping experience. 


“Other easy safeguards include checking your wallet each evening for your debit and credit cards and regularly reviewing bank statements online to confirm you made all the listed purchases. Immediately report a lost or stolen card and dispute any charges you believe aren’t yours,” Clampet said. “You also can change or scramble the passwords to important accounts to make them more difficult to decipher.”


Even when consumers avoid electronic retail transactions, Clampet urged another common-sense step: “If you’re shopping with cash, get a receipt for each purchase and try not to openly flash bills while you’re in public,” she said.

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