Top 10 tips for shopping safely this holiday season
It's no secret that online shopping has rapidly replaced in-store shopping as a preferred method for ordering holiday gifts for many people. But this year's numbers may be higher than ever.
Adobe Analytics estimates that online sales this November and December will surge 33% year-over-year to a record $189 billion. And it has been suggested that this number could be even higher if there are more COVID-related shutdowns or stimulus checks received in the mail. Americans, in fact, are expected to spend $10.3 billion online in a single day - the day after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday, however, will likely still be the biggest online shopping event, bringing in $12.7 billion in sales, which is up 35% from 2019 levels.
With all the money changing hands, the risk of some of it falling into the wrong hands as the result of scams and hacking is also greater than ever.
Here are a few tips to help prevent you from being a victim of online fraud this holiday season.
1. Don't buy from unfamiliar retailers without confirming their legitimacy. Either stick with retailers you know or look at customer reviews to help verify that they really exist and ship as promised. Even when purchasing from a known retailer, be certain only to use the retailer's official app or website.
2. Don't save credit card information or other personal account information.
3. Don't make purchases when using public wi-fi networks, such as those at your local coffee shop. If you must use a public network, consider installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security.
4. Use what are considered to be "strong" passwords. These are typically codes that are at least 10characters long and include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
5. Carefully review all credit card and bank statements regularly to spot unauthorized transactions. With all the increased activity this time of year, it is more likely that a fraudulent purchase could escape your attention.
6. Instead of credit cards, consider using a digital wallet or app such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. These technologies partially obscure account information and only allow the information to be stored for a single transaction.
7. Consider using a pre-paid debit card. Unlike traditional debit cards that provide direct access to all of the funds in your bank account, a pre-paid debit card only authorizes the amount of money that you intentionally load on it, thus limiting your exposure.
8. If you do suspect fraud, immediately notify your bank or credit card company, as timely notification can limit or completely nullify your financial responsibility.
9. Beware of "too-good-to-be-true" deals that lure you into providing confidential information. In some cases, these are scammers who want to solicit your confidential information without ever planning to deliver products or keep claiming they are out of stock after charging your card.
10. Ship to a secure location. Porch thieves, as they've come to be known, are on the lookout for packages being delivered when no one is home. If you're working or expect to be away from the house when packages are scheduled to arrive, either ask a neighbor to be on the look-out or have items shipped to your place of work or local retail location where they are safe.
Don't let scammers or hackers take the joy out of your holiday season. Be cautious and vigilant. the vast majority of online shopping experiences are positive ones, providing tremendous convenience and some great values. A few simple precautions will provide the added peace of mind to keep the season jolly.
The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.