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The holiday shopping season isn’t just a favorite time for retailers, but also for scammers who are hoping to take advantage of all that extra spending you’re doing.

That’s why I want to urge you to use caution this year. It’s easy to be focused on trying to find everything on your list and miss some of the risky behaviors you might be engaging in.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself this holiday season.

1. Carry just one credit card with you and leave the rest at home. That way, you’ll minimize the risk if your wallet or purse is stolen.

2. Only shop at well-known stores. “Pop-up” stores are becoming increasingly popular, especially in major urban centers, but these stores may not always be legitimate, or they may not have the best payment security.

3. Cover your PIN when paying with your card so others can’t see it.

4. If shopping online, make sure the website is secure and provides a level of security and authenticity for your purchases.

5. Don’t lend your credit card to a family or friend. You may trust them, but you lose control of your card and if it’s stolen, it will be YOUR credit that could be affected.

6. Review charges while still in a store. It’s so easy to accidentally turn a $10.00 charge into a $100.00 charge.

7. Be cautious when filling out forms, such as those for home delivery, extended warranties, rain checks, etc. These forms contain a lot of personal information that can easily be used by a scammer or identity thief. Ensure that the form is received by a store employee.

8. Keep all receipts for every purchase you make. When your credit card statement arrives, sit down and go line by line through each purchase, comparing the purchase on the statement with your receipts. This seemingly daunting task will not take as long as you think it will, and your credit will benefit, since too much debt can hurt your credit scores.

9. Never spend more than you can immediately pay back. Even if the deal is really good, you’ll lose the benefit of the discount if you can’t pay off your credit card before you are charged interest, so set a budget.

The holidays can be a lot of fun and a good opportunity to get some deals, but make sure to follow these tips so you come out ahead and your credit is protected.

[Editor’s note: Regularly checking your credit scores can help you recognize quickly if you’ve been a victim of fraud. That’s because your scores can be vulnerable to major spending changes. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]

Image: Eva-Katalin

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