"Happy and Safe Shopping"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, December 9, 2017

The time has come that we all long for: Christmas shopping.

We got past pumpkins and trick-or-treat, ate all our turkeys and gave thanks with our families.

Now it’s time to think about Santa — you know, that fat guy in the red suit with a long white beard. You can find him sitting in a very big chair, at many locations, awaiting a line-up of children. They will all be anxious to tell him exactly what they hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning. I found a short line of kids and snuck in just to let Santa know that I’d like an i8 Sports Model BMW. I also let it be known that at Christmas time he can find me in a warm climate and just park it in my driveway.

As you cruise along in the mall, you will see great sales. Some storefronts will announce on large signs in their windows, “Sale only lasts until noon,” which is a pressure move to get you into the store.

Some special sales will only be available during unusual hours when the store is normally closed. If you are using credit cards you have used for years to shop with, be sure to check your credit limit frequently. You may be using a card where automatic withdrawals are posted. These payments will further reduce your available balance.

Be sure to be careful about some of the great deals offered at many of the major department stores. They use pressure tactics to encourage you to apply for their store’s credit card by attaching a big discount to the purchase you are making. This allows you to make the purchase and get a big discount without any out-of-pocket cost.

As you shop store to store, especially in the malls, you will encounter these offers and you could wind up with a big batch of cards and a big debt to pay off right after Christmas. Not a very jolly outcome to look forward to. Another consequence of accepting too many card offers is it could impact your credit rating and deprive you of a credit offer you may really need in the future.

A serious caution you should also follow is: Watch out for the thieves trying to steal card numbers.

They know this time of year is best to practice their well-known trade and as I see it, they lurk everywhere. If a merchant tells you they have to take your card to double check with another person regarding your purchase, decline the offer. They could easily make a copy of your card, sell the number or just use it themselves.

Let me give you an example of what happened to me. One day, as I attempted to pump gas, I was told the pump could not read my card and I would have to bring it into the station. I was then asked to go back and pump the fuel and return to sign for the purchase and get my card.

A few days later, my card company called saying they wished to verify a few purchases that were unusual. A $500 purchase at a baby store and numerous purchases at various grocery stores. The card company was aware I only use their card for fuel so they asked where I had fueled up. I explained about the clerk wanting me to bring the card in while I pumped. While I was on the phone with them, another illegal purchase was being made. My card company stopped that sale and canceled the card. They sent a new card overnight express, which I appreciated because I was starting a long trip and needed it.

My point is, and I learned the hard way, when making any type of purchase with a credit card, don't allow your card to leave your sight no matter the reason given.

Call for a store manager or just cancel the sale and go elsewhere.

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