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(ARA) – When you’re shopping for the holidays and other special occasions, you’re in the mood to give and make others happy. Unfortunately, there are also people out there aiming to dampen the season by taking advantage of you.

Whether you’re shopping in a mall or online, it’s important to take a few steps to make sure your gifts end up in the right hands and someone else isn’t using your identity for their financial gain. Keeping yourself safe during the holiday season is especially important.

Each year, during the five weeks between Black Friday and the end of the year also known as fraud season, Americans lose $1.1 billion – or $109,000 every minute, according to data derived from the Nilson Report, a consumer payment systems trade journal. With banks only catching 35 percent of fraudulent activity and shoppers 300 percent more likely to suffer credit card fraud during fraud season, taking the following theft and fraud prevention precautions will help you avoid contributing to those numbers:

* Keep your bags close. It’s easy to load up on bags from each store you visit to the point where you become a target because it’s hard for you to keep track of it all. If you find yourself in this situation, find a safe place to store your items, or make the extra trip to your car to place them in your trunk and out of view.

* Keep your money and credit cards closer. While that purse might be the perfect complement to your wardrobe as you cruise through the mall in style, it could also be a target for thieves. Men: It might be easier than you realize to swipe that wallet from your back pocket. If possible, keep cash and credit cards in your front pocket or any place that would be tough for thieves to reach without you noticing.

* Less is more. The less personal information you carry with you the better, just in case you drop anything or your wallet is stolen. Carry minimal amounts of cash and never carry documents with you containing your social security number.

* Use only reputable websites when shopping online. When paying online, make sure the website is preceded by the letters “https,” as this coding inscription ensures your data cannot be shared throughout the web.

* With so much data changing hands these days during financial transactions, anyone can be a victim of identity theft. Consider an advanced fraud protection service, like those offered by Pinpoint, which will alert you instantly of suspicious activity involving your accounts. Pinpoint’s system uses fraud detection algorithms and compares your credit and/or debit card transactions to your cell phone location, alerting you of suspicious purchases. For more information on how these systems work, visit

Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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