10 Ways to Safely Shop Online this Holiday Season

Published 1:04 pm Thursday, November 4, 2021

During this time of year, everyone is gearing up for a busy online shopping season, especially scammers. Risks of getting scammed are higher during the holidays, but you can keep your money safe by following these simple online shopping tips.

  • Shop with reputable retailers.  It’s best to shop directly with online retailers you know and trust. Bookmark your favorite shopping sites to get there quickly and safely.
  • Always vet businesses you’re unfamiliar with.  Do your homework on any business you’ve never purchased from previously. Look for online reviews and search the Better Business Bureau website for complaints. You may say that is a lot of trouble to go through just to shop online, but according to the FBI, some scammers hijack the contact info of real U.S. businesses to make their shady site look legitimate.
  • Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Remember, if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. The FBI found that many sites at the center of its recent consumer complaints were advertised on social media platforms.  You should also compare prices before you buy. Unusually low prices could be a red flag that you’ve landed on a fake site that’s been set up to snag your personal information or steal your money.
  • Do not to browse on public Wi-Fi.  Avoid shopping while using public Wi-Fi because a hacker could be spying on your online activity.  Shopping online often requires giving out information that an ID thief would love to get their hands on, including your name, address and credit card number. You should also establish strong passwords.  A strong password is like a secure lock that keeps cyberthieves out of the accounts where you store your private information.
  • Check the site’s security before you buy.  Looking for a lock icon in the browser bar of a site allows you to verify that they use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption. The URL also should start with “https” rather than just “http.”
  • Don’t fall for email scams.  This is a very common method of internet fraud.  Delete suspicious messages from unfamiliar senders and don’t open attachments or click links in messages because they could infect your computer or phone with viruses and other malware.
  • Make every attempt possible to guard your personal information.  No shopping website should ever ask for your Social Security number. If a site does request this type of very personal information, run in the other direction.
  • Practice paying with a credit card instead of a debit card.  A credit card doesn’t give a seller direct access to the money in your bank account.  Also, most credit cards offer $0 liability for fraud.  That means you’re not out any money if a crook uses your account info to make a purchase. Your credit card company will ask questions, investigate the fraudulent activity and send you a new card.
  • Keep a very sharp eye out for fraud.  Check your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week. Or set up account alerts to notify you of any new activity on your card. When you receive a text or email notification, you can check your account to make sure you recognize the charge.
  • Track your purchases.  Most online retailers will allow you to do that.  After you make an online purchase, keep tabs on it to make sure it’s headed your way. If the merchant refuses to provide shipping info or respond to your requests for the status of your order, contact your credit card issuer for help. They may remove the charge from your bill and possibly investigate the matter.

Because of the pandemic, more and more consumers are turning to online shopping to make necessary purchases that allow them to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing and reduced human contact. However, online shopping can be very harmful and wreak havoc with your finances if you are not careful.  The good news is that by taking just a few security measures, we can greatly reduce our exposure to all these threats.  Enjoy your holiday shopping and be safe! Until next week, stay financially fit!