As you shop, thieves are watching

HOUSTON Getting a good deal is something to cheer about, but in the crush of holiday shopping, keeping an eye on your list should be your second priority.

"Thieves want to buy presents, too," said Deputy Thomas Gilliland with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

With so much money and credit cards changing hands, law enforcement officials caution against becoming a victim of identity theft.

Shonda Montgomery is always on guard after hearing horror stories from a friend.

"It took like 4 years to really just get away from it," she said.

While shopping in stores with plastic, experts say protect your pin number and beware of skimming devices attached to credit card machines. But protecting yourself could also be as simple as streamlining your bag or wallet.

"The biggest, the most old-fashioned form of ID theft is old-fashioned theft, so women shopping, keep your credit card and maybe your ID. Your purse, everything else, leave it at home," said Deputy Gilliland.

While shopping online and on your mobile device, you should be just as diligent.

"Make sure the site you're using is a secure site," said Deputy Gilliand. "Is the credit card company encrypted? Try to go to reputable stores."

Deputy Gilliland also says to be leery of phishing scams disguised as apps, emails or programs asking for sensitive information. Never give out Social Security or account numbers.

Just as you are browsing, police say so are thieves and the headache lasts a whole lot longer than the holiday season.

"You name it, they can use it," said Deputy Gilliland.

Also, be mindful of what's in your car. Never leave valuables or sensitive information inside. Thieves can do a lot with your credit card statements or old bills.

An estimated 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year.

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