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Jill Schlesinger

Data breaches have become part of our lives -- but you can still take a few steps to protect yourself before you hit the stores or start surfing for the upcoming holiday season. Here are a few smart ways to shop more securely.

  • Start by only conducting business with secure web sites, which have a padlock symbol or an address that starts with “https.” If you come across a smaller website and aren’t sure about whether it is secure, check it out with the Better Business Bureau.
  • If you store your credit card information with any website, be sure to set a strong password that is only used for that site.
  • When shopping in a brick-and-mortar location, the safest choice is using cash at the checkout counter -- but most of us don’t want to risk losing money. If you want the convenience of plastic, credit cards are the safest option: If your credit card information is stolen or compromised, your liability is minimized, whereas a debit card thief could drain your bank account before you notice. Additionally, credit card issuers usually provide protection against stolen, damaged or lost items.
  • Once you've done your shopping, carefully review credit card statements as soon as you receive them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your issuer and report it immediately.

Finally, if you think that your information has been compromised or that you have been a victim of identity theft, go to the FTC website for step-by-step instructions about what you need to do.

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