JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Thanksgiving Day also means we’re on the brink of the big holiday shopping rush, but before you hand over your plastic, learn where identity thieves are most likely to lurk.
They leave their footprint in places you might not suspect.
WLBT investigates why holiday shopping is risky business, and how you can keep your money in your account, where it belongs.
Hayden Hess of Brandon is holding a credit card statement that could have had extra charges on it from someone who managed to get his numbers back in September, and tried to make charges.
“There were two consecutive charges for about $50 each,” he says. “I got a text message, what must have been immediately when the charges happened.”
His credit card company had flagged the purchases before they were processed. Hess almost fell victim to credit card fraud.
“You think there are so many cards, so many transactions out there, that it would be slim chance to happen to yourself but it did,” he adds.
It can happen to you too. Maybe even on Thanksgiving Day, when the holiday shopping season begins.
“Thanksgiving Day around 4, 5 o’clock. That’s when it starts,” says Flowood Police Sergeant Adam Nelson.
Nelson will have his eye on the bustling Dogwood Shopping Center during the Christmas season. He urges shoppers to take safeguards, and to consider risky places to use cards.
One of them: outdoor ATM’s. While surveillance cameras watch over these money machines, especially at banks, they’re tempting places for criminals to attach skimmers, devices that record your card information. Flowood police recently found a skimmer on a bank ATM, and made an arrest. More arrests could be on the way.
Another risky place: online.
John O’Hara with the Better Business Bureau of Central Mississippi says the potential for hacking is bigger than we know.
“This is happening daily,” O’Hara tells us. “We get calls, we’ve already had calls this morning of people saying ‘hey I think my information’s compromised. Where do I go’.”
Online shopping is never fool-proof, but look for the “https” in the URL line of the site where you want to buy. The "s" stands for secure.
A third risky place: bars and restaurants. At a restaurant or bar, you’re handing someone your card and they’re walking away with it. That could give them plenty of time to write down your numbers and try to use them.
“When you hand your card to someone at a restaurant, watch what they’re doing. Make sure they’re going right to a station, they’re not walking around with it,” O’Hara advises.
Also, consider leaving your purse in your vehicle while shopping so it can’t be snatched. Make sure it’s hidden, preferably in your trunk.
Finally, use a credit card instead of a debit card so a crook can’t withdraw from your account right away.
“If you don’t have any credit cards, pay with cash,” Nelson tells us.
Hess says the added protection of a credit card was key to keeping his money in his account, where it belongs, and he warns any of us paying with plastic to stay aware and check our accounts every day.
“There’s a lot of people out there trying to get our money, and just watch out,” he says.