How to protect your financial info this holiday shopping season

We're excited holiday shopping season is upon us -- unfortunately, so are the scammers and identity thieves. Here are some tips from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities to keep your financial information secure, both online and in stores.

1) Watch out for fraudulent card skimming devices. They can be attached to ATMs, gas station pumps and other payment processing machines. One swipe will give your credit card information directly to the thieves. Examine the card reader slot and surrounding areas to see whether anything looks out of place or loose.

2) Use ATMs and gas pumps in well-lit, secure locations. Plan ahead, so last minute stops don't put you in a bad situation.

3) When online shopping, before entering any sensitive information, make sure the website address for the login page begins with "https" and has a padlock icon in the browser status bar.

4) Consider using a credit card not linked to your bank account to avoid compromising your PIN or cash flow.

5) Check your bank and credit card statements frequently and report any unfamiliar activity immediately.

6) Do not open links or attachments in unsolicited emails from any person or vendor you do not know.

7) And finally, if you DO suspect something is amiss, help out your fellow man and notify the police and the institution or store manager. You can also contact your state's Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit with any complaints.

This year, with these safety measures in mind, the only person doing damage to your bank account will be YOU. Happy (and safe) shopping!