With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, consumers will be hitting stores and online retailers to get a head start on buying gifts. During Black Friday, shoppers are naturally on the hunt for deals. However, it's also a great time for scammers and cybercriminals. Last year during Black Friday weekend, Target had a breach that exposed 110 million customer records. Target stores had their point-of-sale systems infected with malware designed to steal this information and send it to servers abroad.

A recent survey by CreditCard.com revealed almost half of consumers would avoid shopping at stores that had a data breach. Since there has been a string of breaches affecting retailers leading up to the holiday season, consumers should be more careful about protecting their payment cards.

Here are five tips to protect your card and prevent fraud this Black Friday:

1. Avoid Deals Too Good to Be True
Although you may be shopping for deals, there are some discounts or promotions that might be a scam in disguise. If you get an email from an unknown sender advertising cheap or free electronics, travel tickets or other merchandise, be on the look out for signs of a scam. Schemers may ask you for your personal information or credit card details to get the deal, but avoid clicking on any links that request this information. 

2. Use a Credit Card Instead of Debit
While you could choose cash to avoid having your information processed at POS systems, your next best bet is a credit card. Credit card companies often will not hold you liable for fraudulent purchases. In the event someone does get a hold of a card without permission, consumers are also liable for less money with a credit card than a debit card.

3. Block Your PIN from View
Whether you're checking out at a store or withdrawing cash from an ATM, be sure to cover your PIN from view. This is to prevent people from looking over your shoulder or using a hidden camera to record your PIN. 

4. Use Only Secured Sites
Black Friday and its online equivalent Cyber Monday means more shoppers making purchases on the Internet. When shopping, only visit secured sites and look for the little icon of a padlock next to the webpage's URL to indicate that the site is safe to use. 

5. Monitor Your Credit Card and Bank Statements
Cybercriminals might take advantage of the fact that you may be too busy with shopping and visiting family this Black Friday to actively monitor your financial accounts. While you may be occupied, continue to look at your statements for any suspicious activity. 

Patricia Oliver is a fraud operations team leader for IDT911.

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