Online shopping is now second-nature for millions of consumers, but it carries with it certain risks for identity theft. Some shoppers might think that avoiding online purchasing will eliminate potential problems, but in-person shopping can also have its own perils.

Determining the safest method for shopping isn't necessarily about choosing one or the other - it all comes down to knowing how to shop safely in either environment. Consider these potential identity theft pitfalls of shopping in person and online:

Online obstacles

• Shopping on an unsecured website. If you don't see "https" in the URL of a page on which you're making a purchase, identity thieves might be able to access your personal information.
• Storing payment information on retailer sites. If you save your credit or debit card numbers on a retailer's website to make future payments go more quickly, that information can be stolen if thieves hack the website.
• Having weak passwords. If you're using an easily guessable password (like basic words, your birthdate or children's names), a savvy hacker could gain access to your accounts and steal your identity in a snap.

Retail risks

• Letting your card out of sight. If a clerk takes your card to an out-of-sight spot, you could be at risk of identity theft. Don't ever let someone take your card to a place where you would be unable to see them writing down the number and other information.
• Skimming. You might not give a second thought to paying for things like gas or rental movies with the swipe of a card. Thieves are well aware of that fact, and sometimes attach "skimmers" designed to look like real card-reading devices to these automated points of sale. The skimmers read and collect card information, giving thieves access to your accounts.

Shopping safely is largely in the hands of consumers. Armed with awareness, shoppers can confidently make their purchases and protect their identities.

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