You should be able to shop without any fear that you’re exposing your identity. Fortunately there are some simple precautions you can take to make life a lot harder for identity thieves. Here are some ways you can shop safe.
#1: Offline, you have to watch out for thieves and shoulder surfers. Pay attention to anyone who stands too close, particularly while your credit card is out or when you’re at the ATM. Also look for people who have cell phones out but aren’t making any calls. These individuals could be trying to take pictures of your credit card at the register; a simpler, low-tech way to deal with credit card skimming.
#2: Another method is to simply carry cash. Cash is anonymous. There’s not a single purchase you make in cash that’s likely to expose your identity, unless your wallet gets stolen while you’re pulling the cash out. If you must use your debit card, run it as a credit card rather than running the risk that you might expose the PIN number to thieves. Credit transactions are easier to dispute and reverse, and they don’t give anybody an open door straight to your bank account, where someone might clean you out. After all, your card, sans the PIN number, has a daily limit on what can be withdrawn or charged. Running up against that limit can protect you from further damage should the worst occur.
#3: One way you can protect your identity online is to enroll in “Verified” by Visa or MasterCard SecureCard. Each time you go to use your card online the verified service will require an additional password. So long as you choose a secure, strong password that is difficult to guess and keep your computer properly secured, this extra step might well put a damper on any thief’s plans to use your information.
#4: Finally, be careful where you shop. Trusted, verified websites should be the only places you spend your money. Look for the “Verisign” logo or simply stick to the large companies that you know. Never visit a company from an e-mail link as you might end up the victim of phishing; go to the website direct from your search engine browser.