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Sandra Yi ReportingIn the hustle and bustle of the holiday season experts warn we could fall prey to what's become the fastest growing crime in the country.
Beginning Friday morning, retail stores will be full of holiday shoppers. There are opportunities for great deals, and opportunities for criminals to steal your identity.
Stacie McMahon, Salt Lake City Resident: “Good deals, first thing. It’s very early, but they have good deals.”
Jeffrey Bye: "I'm not big into shopping, but I will shop, I will definitely buy stuff.”
Skip Lee: “I work in retail, so how excited can you be about that?”
But experts warn of a serious matter. They say, while you're looking for that special gift, criminals will be searching for something else -- your identity.
Skip Lee: "So much going on, I'm afraid to give out any information to anybody anymore."
According to the Federal Trade Commission, in the past five years, more than 27 million Americans have become victims of identity theft, costing consumers more than 5 billion dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
Jeffrey Bye: “You don’t want to give up your credit card information.”
Stacie McMahon: "I try to be really careful and shred the mail when it comes. Keep my purse real close and hope that no one steals it."
Experts urge extra caution this holiday season. Here are some things to think about: keep a limited amount of personal information in your purse and wallet, and guard your card when making purchases. Experts say shield your hand when using ATM machines. Also, always take your receipts with you.
If you plan to shop online, make sure you're buying from a reputable retailer with a secure network. And tear or shred any documents with personal information. Also, monitor your bank and credit card statements. The FTC reports that more than half of all identity theft victims found out their identity was stolen by checking their accounts.