The holidays are almost here, and for many people that means shopping. Unfortunately, scammers and hackers are already standing by to take advantage of consumers through data breaches and fraudulent activity, increasing the importance of holiday shopping safety. Before getting involved in this year’s estimated $1.1 trillion spending frenzy and the too good to be true online offers that go with it, it is important to understand what you can do to protect yourself and exercise holiday shopping safety.
A lot of people choose to skip the crowds and the chaos (and possible loss or theft of their wallets) by shopping online. However, in order to protect yourself from cyberthieves, you need to be prepared. If you are going to be establishing new accounts to make your purchases, do so before the big shopping holidays like Cyber Monday. Remember to use a strong, unique password, and enable two-factor authentication if it is offered.
Know Your Retailer
If you are already planning to shop online, exercise holiday shopping safety by choosing your retailers and making sure you are only using reputable websites. Look for the HTTPS designation at the beginning of the URL that indicates a secure website, and be sure that you are not redirecting to a website that has been made to look like the real thing. If you have received emails from companies that offer great deals, avoid clicking the links in the emails. Instead, go directly to the retailer’s website yourself and search for the item you are interested in.
Credit vs. Debit
Depending on which financial institution you use, your credit card may be more secure than your debit card. This is especially true if mysterious charges appear on your statement and you need to dispute those charges. Keep in mind that if you establish one credit card for all of your holiday shopping, it will be easier to reconcile any receipts and purchases later on. It may even help you stay on budget.
Before making any purchases online, exercise holiday shopping safety and make sure your computer itself is secure. Update your antivirus software and run a scan before starting your shopping in order to root out any harmful software that may be stealing your information.
If you are venturing out into brick-and-mortar stores for your holiday shopping, remember that public Wi-Fi can be problematic. A lot of retailers and restaurants offer free connectivity as an incentive to their customers. However, you cannot know who else is on the same connection. It could easily be a hacker who steals your information. Save your sensitive internet activity for your home connection.
Enable Alerts on Your Cards
If you have not already done so, contact your financial institution and enable alerts on your account. This is a very important holiday shopping safety tip. These alerts will arrive as a text message or email and will let you know immediately if your credit card number was used without the card being present, such as online. While you are enabling this feature, you might inform your credit card company if you plan to travel over the holidays so that your card is not declined for security reasons at your destination.
The Real Work Begins After the Holidays
Once the presents are shared and the decorations are put away, your work is not done. Monitor your accounts carefully for any signs of suspicious activity and take immediate action if you see any charges that should not be there.
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