Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

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We’re right in the midst of the annual holiday shopping frenzy. Decorating, hosting parties, and giving gifts are some of the best parts of the season, and shopping for these occasions is part of getting your holiday on, too. We’ve got some tips for safer holiday shopping that will help keep the season merry and bright.

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People are predicted to shop online this holiday season more than ever before, and with that trend comes new challenges to your security. Data breaches have been all over the news the past few years, identity theft is still a major concern, and scammers seem to be in every nook and cranny of the internet. To stay secure while still enjoying the benefits of shopping from the comfort of your couch, be sure to follow these safety tips.

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Be sure the site is secure.

Look for https (instead of http) at the beginning of the website address, and/or a padlock icon at the beginning of the address bar. This means the site has an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, which provides an encrypted connection and verifies the website owner is legit.

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Stick with what you know.

Sure, it’s fun to explore new websites and vendors, but it’s also a bit risky. If you can only find the perfect gift for Cousin Benedict at a little website you stumbled across almost by accident, be sure to look for alternate ways to contact them, such as a physical address or phone number.

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Beware of spoofers.

You probably shop at Amazon.com; if you received an email with a link to Amazon.net, would you notice? If you saw a link to Wallmart.com, would you realize it’s not the retail giant because the name is misspelled? These are tricks that online thieves use to get you to their website and get your financial and personal information.

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Use a VPN or secure wifi.

Mobile hotspots are generally not secure and can be tapped into by cyber-savvy criminals. According to a poll by PCMag[2], only 26% of people know they should use a virtual private network (VPN) service when using public wifi.

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Keep your antivirus software up to date.

Seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re not getting updates, you’re not well protected. Plus, you should be choosing strong passwords that are difficult to hack.

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Once you’ve safely navigated your online shopping, you need to pay attention to how you’re receiving your packages.

Unfortunately, parcel theft is a problem this time of year, but there are some easy ways to protect your purchases from pesky porch pirates.

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Choose pickup.

Smart lockers allow you to get packages delivered to convenience stores, supermarkets, and other shops where they’ll be safe until you can get to them.

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Have packages delivered to your office.

Deliveries are generally made only when the business is open, and there’s almost always someone to receive your items.

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Provide a locked container that delivery people can slip packages into.

Post a large note telling them to use the lockbox rather than leaving your parcels unprotected.

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Invest in a smart doorbell camera.

Especially if you can get one that will message your smartphone when it detects activity at your door. You then have the options to go home and get your package, call a neighbor, or even use technology to scare porch pirates away by shouting at them through your security system!

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Brick-and-mortar stores offer up different challenges from cybershopping.

Take these steps to protect yourself when you’re out and about.

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Hide it, take it, lock it.

Car break-ins are crimes of opportunity. Leaving packages, shopping bags, or anything of worth in plain sight is practically an invitation to thieves. If you can’t hide belongings in your trunk or under the seats, be sure to take them with you, and always lock your car when you leave it.

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Don’t flash the cash.

It’s tempting to fill an envelope with cash and only use that money for your holiday shopping; it can really help you stay on budget. But pulling out wads of cash as you go from store to store pretty much puts a target on your back. Using a credit card is much safer, and many have built-in guarantees that make it easier to return items or protect you if an item is damaged or even stolen.

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Go casual.

Leave the flashy jewelry, high-end purse and shoes, and fancy clothes at home.

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Don’t overdo it.

If your arms are full of bags and boxes, you could be a ripe target for a pickpocket or other type of thief.

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Shop in the daytime.

More people and more light means you can avoid shady characters and situations more easily.

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  • Honing your shopping smarts is important all year, not just during the holidays.Frequently check your credit card and debit card statements, looking for unknown purchases.
  • When leaving a store, always have your keys ready so you can get into your vehicle right away.
  • Keep receipts, order confirmations, and tracking numbers in a secure place until your item is received.If you think you’ve been the victim of an online scam or identity theft, contact your bank or credit card issuer right away.

Sources:
[1] Kaspersky,
[2] PCMag,
[3] Shorr Packaging.