Well, it’s here.
The holidays are upon us, and the countdown is on to find the perfect gifts for family and friends. And while more than half of holiday shoppers planned to make purchases online during the 2019 holiday season, you can bet that those numbers have risen—particularly this year during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it is also the time of year when online scammers make a killing—often at our expense.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are most certainly ways to find precisely what you want online, shop safely, and have a perfectly pleasant experience. Here’s how…
- Plan Ahead
Let’s face it: Many of us have seen a reduction in our amount of disposable income this year. So before you even start holiday shopping, make a gift list and set yourself a budget, which can help prevent last minute splurge purchases.
- Use Prepaid Debit Cards
Shopping with prepaid debit card removes a lot of the risk that goes with online shopping. And here’s why: These are different from debit and credit cards because the money isn’t connected to your credit history or to a bank account. Simply load money onto the prepaid debit card and use that balance for purchases and reload when needed. So if a scammer gets hold of the card information, the crime pretty much ends there. The thief can’t open new credit accounts in your name, drain your checking account, or make purchases over the amount you’ve already loaded. Plus, you still have some degree of fraud protection. If you have previously registered the card and you report the loss or theft to the card issuer, most will restore your original balance and issue a new card. However, since many prepaid debit cards come with high fees, read the terms before getting one, and consider only using these for holiday shopping.
- Only Shop Online…at Home
There’s no place like home for the holidays—especially for safe online holiday shopping. DON’T make purchases on public WiFi networks. And here’s why: Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With a little tech know-how and the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite cafe, someone can intercept the data you send and receive while on free public Wi-Fi. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name, address, and credit card information. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to shop online or log in to any website while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi.
- Focus on Cyber Monday–NOT Black Friday
Of course, you may find some pretty awesome deals on Black Friday. But you know what can take the cake? Cyber Monday, which is the Monday immediately after Thanksgiving. This is the day when online retailers promote big sales, so you can save even more while shopping from the comfort of your own home.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Buy the Same Gift Twice
If you find a gift that you know several people on your list would enjoy, buy it in multiples. This cuts down on your shopping time, and if the retailer is offering any variation of a “BOGO” (aka Buy one, get one) deal, even better.
- Ship to a Secure Location
The rise of online shopping has led to an increase of home deliveries—and with it, an increase in “porch pirates”, or crooks who steal packages from doorsteps. If no one’s home to accept a package, consider shipping to your office or another safe place. UPS, Amazon, and FedEx all now have shipping lockers available for secure deliveries.
- Review Your Records
After purchasing gifts, keep an eye on all your accounts and bank statements. Check your statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week or set up account alerts. When you receive a text or email about a charge, you can check the message and likely easily recall whether you recognize the charge and made the purchase.