As the song will tell you dozens of times this holiday season, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Unfortunately it can also be one of the most dangerous times of the year for identity theft if you make it too easy for those looking to take your money.
With the holiday season ready to roll into full swing mode, we’re all starting to prepare mentally and financially for that “most wonderful time of the year.” Sadly, according to a recent study by Experian, 43-percent of consumers who have had their identity stolen say it happened while shopping online during the holidays.
To help you safely navigate this major online shopping holiday and save money instead of having it stolen from you, Rebecca Gramuglia, Retail Expert at TopCashback.com has prepared some advice.
She has assembled what she calls Best Practices for how to shop safely online this holiday season.
Gramuglia says “With all of the different online shopping destinations this holiday season, it can be easy to click on this year’s must-have toy (Candylocks, WowWee Pinkfong Baby Shark Official Song Puppet, i.e.) and pay for it immediately. And according to a recent survey conducted by TopCashback.com, 71-percent of Americans plan to shop online this year. However, it’s important not to fall victim to identity theft or other not-so-jolly situations.” She encourages you to save yourself from falling victim by recognizing these sources of scams:
- Avoid suspicious websites. Especially when looking for the hottest toy of the season, you may come across a variety of sites. However, if you see one that seems questionable, has an outdated design and/or has multiple pop-up windows, it may not be a legitimate retailer. Refrain from making any purchases on these types of sites to ensure that your personal information does not get compromised.
- Don’t overlook the URL. In addition to avoiding suspicious looking sites, make sure your site has either a little padlock icon on the left side of the search bar and/or says “HTTPS” — emphasis on the ‘S’. This layer of security is essential when online shopping and sharing personal information. If the site is not secured or the URL only features “HTTP,” your browser may point this out to you in the search bar.
- Unsecure networks and devices. If you’re going to make any purchase online, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Use security software and firewalls to keep your information secured. Be sure to avoid public computers and public WiFi networks to make sure no one can potentially access your information. And the top way to make sure your information is protected is to regularly change your password (usually every three to six months) to reduce the chances of someone accessing your personal profiles, data, etc.
- Pay with protection. Ensure your online safety by not only logging onto a secure site and network, but also by making purchases online with either a credit card or through PayPal. By using these payment methods, you’ll have an added layer of consumer protection that can guard you against fraud. However don’t get a false sense of security, if you notice any suspicious activity on your credit card, contact your provider immediately.
- Beware of phishing emails. While you’re skimming your email this holiday season for any coupons or promotions be wary of any enticing emails from an unfamiliar sender in your inbox. Avoid the most common type of fraud by deleting any suspicious emails. Even if it looks somewhat legitimate, keep in mind that criminals use this scheme to get you to provide personal information. You can also get a virus on your computer simply by opening the email, so be cautious. In addition to unfamiliar emails, be on the lookout for phishing emails disguised as if they came directly from family members, co-workers, etc. If the message looks strange, double-check the sender address to see if it is actually from that person. More often than not, your gut feeling is usually right so delete the message immediately if it is not actually from a person you know.
- Look out for gift-card scams. Scammers aren’t just interested in stealing your identity, credit- or debit-card information, some want your gift cards too. Be wary of any websites or phone representatives that only take gift cards from other retailers — like Walmart or Google Play gift card — for payment. Any merchant who limits your payment options to gift card only is usually trouble.
Here also are 5 tips to maximize your savings on Cyber Monday — and Black Friday too:
- Be aware of retail tricks. Always be on the look-out for tricks that retailers use to get us to part with our money. From loyalty cards, decoy pricing to even email newsletters, merchants use these as incentives to get consumers to shop — especially during the holiday season.
- Look for the best deals. The best deal-hunters are always well-prepared for Cyber Monday and Black Friday shopping. Before you shop take inventory of what you need, from holiday gifts to decorations. Once you have your shopping list ready, head to sites such as CyberMonday.com to compare what you need to buy versus what will be offered.
- Don’t get sidetracked. Your mission on Cyber Monday is to get the gifts you need at the price you want, so don’t buy stuff simply because you can save a lot of money on it. All those sale items — that you can get practically anytime on sale — are just noise meant to distract you from getting what you need.
- Be wary of limited quantities. Some of the best deals on Cyber Monday have a ridiculously limited supply. That means you’ll have to be at the front of the virtual line if you want to snag those deals and save money. To ensure you don’t miss out, check the merchant’s email promotion or website to find out when the sale starts, set an alarm and shop early. Don’t think you can find rock-bottom prices at 2 pm on Monday — most sales start at midnight and any good deal/item sells out within the first 15-30 minutes — if not seconds.
- Be a savvy shopper. The holiday season is a hectic time of year, between purchasing gifts, hosting parties and decorating your home, it’s easy to overspend. So spare yourself from going over your budget by bundling savings, coupons and promotions while using a rebate site like TopCashback.com to receive cashback on all your purchases.