Avoiding Scams and Fraud while Shopping this Holiday Season

There’s no need to worry about shopping online this December. Keep reading for 5 tips on how to keep your accounts safe while shopping online this holiday season and all year long! 

1. Do Your Research and Know Who You’re Shopping With.

Resembling legitimate brands and websites, scam e-Commerce shops can part victims from their payment and personal information and then never ship the merchandise.

That “perfect gift” you just saw in a Facebook Ad? Take a minute to do some research to make sure it isn’t a lump of coal. Ask others if they have shopped with that company before. Check their Facebook page for reviews. Look them up with the Better Business Bureau. Examine the website for poor grammar and/or misspelled words. Check the website’s privacy & shipping policy before providing personal or financial information.

Another way to double-check website security from the business you are purchasing from is to look at the left corner of the URL to confirm that there is a padlock icon and that the URL begins with HTTPS. These two details indicate that the site should have an extra layer of security attached to it. If those are missing abandon your cart & head over to a more trusted website! 


2. Use Secure WiFI or a VPN

With the convenience of mobile sites and shopping apps, it can be so tempting to shop on the go. However, free (public) wireless networks make it much easier to intercept and steal your data. Go ahead & add to cart but wait till you get home to enter your payment information. Or just use the data connection on your phone. It’s significantly more secure than public WiFi. 

If you’re still worried, take the extra step of using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the data coming in and out of your device, so no one can snoop on your internet activity and steal the information you input online, including logins and payment information.


3. Check Statements Regularly.

The holidays are prime time for scammers to make unauthorized charges on stolen cards. While you are busy shopping (online and in-person) for the ones you love, it can be easy to miss one purchase you didn’t make. Often we think that it’s one our spouse made or we just don’t remember who it’s for. 

Be sure to follow St Nick’s example and check your list twice! You can even set up daily account alerts and dispute any purchases that you did not authorize. Keep your receipts (paper and email) to compare them against your statements.


4. Keep It Simple

One way to manage all your holiday shopping is to use the same card and email account for all of your holiday shopping. Using one email makes it easier for you to spot phishing emails and to keep track of your online orders in case something gets lost in the mail. Using a separate card from your everyday spending helps you keep a closer watch on exactly how much you have bought and has the added benefit of being able to quickly suspend activities without impacting anything else if the card gets compromised.

Any trustworthy website will email you a sales confirmation after your purchase. Don’t delete these emails until the item has arrived and you know that you are satisfied. While the vendor should have a record of the sale on their end, the receipt has information that you want to be armed with should you need to call customer service or return a purchase.


5. Use a Credit Card Wisely

As holiday shoppers look for financing options, like credit lines, as well as unique gift ideas and discounts, they must be cautious of fake ads with festive or personalized themes. Instead of resorting to key word searches, use places you know and trust and visit their sites by typing the URL directly into the address bar.

While in cases of fraud we will make things right if someone empties your checking account, seeing your money disappear can be a lot more stressful than seeing your credit card bill. You can minimize going over your budget by using a single, low-limit credit card to make all of your online purchases.

There are also laws that limit your liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card, but not as many for debit cards. Additionally, use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay. The reason we suggest this is because debit cards pull money directly from your account & can lead to problems in other areas if unauthorized charges come through. 


Bonus: You can set up text or email alerts in your account for transactions that exceed a certain amount of money or if your account goes below a certain amount. This will let you know quickly if a cybercriminal has gone on a shopping spree with your account. Click Here to Learn How!