The nation’s eighth-largest store, Target, announced in 2013 that the credit and debit card information of as many as 40 million customers was compromised over three weeks of the 2013 holiday shopping season — one of the largest breaches ever of American consumer data.

According to a statement on the company’s website, customer names, card numbers, expiration dates and the short verification codes known as CVVs — everything an ID thief would need to create a counterfeit card – were all accessed as part of the breach.

ShopperTrak, the leading global provider of shopper insights and analytics, expects that several of the days leading up to Christmas, including "Super Saturday" – Dec. 21 – will be among the busiest shopping days of the holiday season. As Target’s data breach shows, procrastinating shoppers may have more to worry about than whether or not coveted items are out of stock.

Floridians are extremely vulnerable to identity theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida has the highest per capita rate of identity theft reports in the nation. And thieves will be seeking gifts among the crowds – distracted shoppers who will be using credit cards, checks and identification documents in greater frequency in the days leading up to the Christmas holiday. According to CreditCards.comadding the following five items to your shopping to-do list could help you avoid identity theft at the register:  

1. Pay at the register. If you have a choice between paying at the register and handing your card to a waiter, pay at the register. That way, you're less likely to be subject to skimming, a scam where an employee takes an unauthorized scan of your card. If you must hand your card over to a waiter or salesperson, keep the card in your sight at all times.

2. Get your card back quickly. The shorter the time that your card is away from you, the less chance there is of a fraud. So, if you open a tab at a bar, make sure you get your card back. Don't let the bartender hold it at the cash register. If your card sits on the bar or at the register, it might get skimmed, or an employee or other person could take a quick picture of it with a cell phone camera, says Suzanne Miller, senior partner of the compliance and audit group at Turbo PCI.

3. Look for security cameras. PCI data security standards require merchants who process credit cards in person to have security cameras trained on card processing areas, notes Miller. Unfortunately, many don't, which means the retailer, restaurant or other merchant is more likely to be subject to internal credit card fraud by employees. If employees know that security cameras are monitoring them, they are less likely to try to commit fraud.

4. Beware of tip fraud. When you add a servicer tip onto your credit or debit card charge, you risk tip fraud, a scam where a service employee alters the tip amount when entering the final bill at the cash register or point-of-sale system. Most consumers, even those who actually go over their credit card or debit card charges with a fine tooth comb, won't notice an extra 75 cents or dollar tip. You can avoid this scam by leaving a tip in cash.

5. Check for skimming at ATM and PIN entry terminals. If an ATM or PIN entry device looks odd or different, don't use it. Skimmers frequently attach devices to ATMs or PIN entry devices -- especially those that aren't monitored by merchants -- to steal card data encoded on magnetic stripes.

Unfortunately, even the safest shopping tips can’t guarantee that a scrooge won’t steal your identity. If you’ve made the “nice” list this year, consider purchasing comprehensive identity theft protection coverage – it’s a gift that could help make the holiday season merry and bright for years to come!