The holiday season is an incredible time of year: decorating the house with holiday ornaments, spending time with family, and indulging in decadent treats.
Arguably, one of the least enjoyable aspects of the holidays is the shopping.
Packed malls, struggling to find a gift, and spending money all contribute to a stressful experience, which is why more and more Americans are skipping the malls and shopping online from the comfort of home. During the 2019 holiday season, online and non-store retail sales are expected to grow 11% and 14% in comparison to 2018.
However, shopping online poses some risks.
During the holidays, people tend to make a greater number of purchases than the rest of the year. Also, because of the lengthy laundry list of tasks for the holidays, people often tend to be more distracted and are more likely to be hit with fraud.
Whether you’re shopping online or hitting the malls, here’s some tips to protect yourself this holiday season.
Update Software on Your Computer or Cell Phone
This tip is one of the easiest tips you can do, but it is often neglected or put off. While you may roll your eyes when you see the “update your software” notification come through, it is an easy line of defense against hackers. Software updates are often released as security measures. While it may be annoying to update your software consistently, it’s important.
Beware of Phishing Scams
When you’re scouring the web for deals on that one item your loved one really wants, it may be tempting to click on links that offer tremendous deals.
Doing so may come at a far greater price than originally intended.
Fraudsters will commonly set up fake websites, designed to look reputable, from which they send you an email with a link to the fraudulent site. This is known as phishing.
Some best practices to avoid phishing scams include:
- Inspecting the link before clicking on it
- Deleting any suspicious emails or offers that seem “too good to be true.”
- Check to see if the page is encrypted before entering credit card details
- Protect your computer by installing anti-malware and spyware software. Make sure it’s always up to date.
Even if an email looks real, don’t click on the links.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi For Purchases
It may be tempting to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi at the mall in lieu of using precious data, but it can pose some risks. Never use a public computer for online shopping and don’t use public Wi-Fi when entering credit card information. It may be tempting to browse your banking information while taking a break from shopping, but it enables thieves to easily intercept any data on a public network.
You can set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your laptop or your phone, which encrypts your connection while using a public network. Usually though, VPN’s aren’t free and require a subscription.
Only Use Credit Cards When Shopping Online
If you’re thinking about making purchases online with your debit card, think again.
Credit cards offer strong protection against fraudulent charges. Many credit cards also offer zero liability protection, meaning that you won’t have to cover the bill for fraudsters trying to make purchases with your credit card.
Some other benefits that credit cards offer are:
- Virtual card numbers: Virtual credit card numbers are temporary numbers that can be used while shopping online. It’s a measure that helps protect your real account while shopping online. If a site has a disposable card number, it’s a lot more difficult for someone to access your credit card and make unauthorized purchases.
- Account alerts: Signing up for text or email alerts to notify you if there’s unusual activity on your account.
- Account lock: you can lock or freeze your account if your card gets lost or stolen.
Alternatively, if someone makes an unauthorized charge to your debit card, the amount you will owe depends on how quickly you report it. As the money is immediately taken from your bank account, it could take longer for you to get it back.
Check Your Statements and Credit Reports
Always make sure you frequently check up on your credit statements and reports, especially during the holiday season when you’re more likely to make purchases. Always report any suspicious activity.
Additionally, make sure you dispose of any letters or bank statements properly through document destruction services. It’s easy for someone to steal your identity if you don’t properly dispose of your documents.
Here’s to a safe and happy holiday season!