Your Guide to Online Holiday Shopping Safety
November 24, 2020
Some of the merchants listed in this blog pay us a commission when you make product purchases using the links we provide.
This holiday season is unlike any other. For some, thinking about the holidays conjures images of navigating a busy shopping mall and standing in a long line of people waiting to checkout as string lights twinkle in the windows.
This year may look different. To avoid the holiday crowd, you may choose not to venture out of your home for your holiday shopping at all.
But while online shopping is a great option for purchasing gifts, safety can be a concern. Increased interest in online shopping may lead to more opportunities for cybercriminals to steal credit card information. Keeping yourself safe online is a must — we’ve compiled a list of ways you can help protect yourself.
Read on for tips to help you avoid holiday scams online or jump to the infographic for a summary.
Online Holiday Shopping Statistics
Online shopping has been growing in popularity for years, but especially amidst the current climate that has left many wanting to stay at home and get their goods delivered.
- 69% of Americans have purchased an item online (NPR)
- 78% of online shoppers do so to avoid long lines of people (NPR)
- Online shopping is expected to generate more than $300 billion in revenue in 2020 (Statista)
- The average online shopping order total from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday was $162 in 2019 (Statista)
- 42% of holiday shoppers research and purchase their products online (Statista)
- 2020 online holiday shopping is expected to generate more than $70 billion in revenue (Statista)
- 91% of online shoppers buy their holiday gifts from Amazon (Statista)
- 58% of people enjoy shopping online because they can do so at any time of day or night (Deloitte)
How to Help Protect Yourself While Online Holiday Shopping
Online shopping is convenient and fun but you should look out for yourself by thinking about the following things while shopping online.
Don’t Buy From Unfamiliar Retailers
It’s best to stick to e-commerce sites that you know are trustworthy, like Amazon, Walmart or other big brand names. But if you want to shop small, make sure to read a company’s reviews to verify that they are legitimate before making a purchase.
Ship to a Secure Location
As online shopping has increased during the pandemic, so have concerns of package theft from porches or mailboxes. Make sure to ship your packages to a secure location and try to be home when they are delivered to keep these “porch pirates” from stealing your gifts.
Don’t Shop on Public WiFi
Public WiFi is generally viewed as being less secure. While you’re shopping, a cybercriminal may be able to gain access to your information if they’re logged into the same WiFi network. If you want to shop online from a public area, help protect yourself by doing things like setting up a personal hotspot that only you can access.
Use Strong Passwords on Your Accounts
Creating a strong, unique password for your account while online shopping is a good way to help prevent cyber criminals from gaining access. Help protect your privacy and safety while online shopping by creating a password with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. It’s also a best practice to vary your passwords among websites.
Know The Potential Risks of Using A Bank Card
Generally, it’s best to avoid giving out banking information whenever possible — including your bank card number. Using a credit card is generally better than using a bank card, as there are more consumer protections in place for credit card users. Using third-party purchasing apps like Google Pay or Apple Pay can also add protections to your transactions.
Monitor Your Accounts
Once you’ve made your purchase, make sure to regularly check your bank accounts and credit card balance to ensure that you consented to all purchases made. If a large sum of money disappears from your account, you’ll want to file a claim as soon as possible.
Make Sure the Site is Secure
Check to make sure the site begins with “https,” not just “http.” This means that the site has a secure sockets layer (SSL) installed, which generally means that any data you share with the site is encrypted. To put it simply: SSL makes sure that only the hosting site and your browser can see the information you’re sharing, helping protect you from cyber criminals intercepting your information. SSL is also signified by a lock icon next to the URL bar.
Don’t Share Personal Information
Remember: No online shopping website will ever need your Social Security number, your birthday or other personal information. If a website asks for too much information during the checkout process, that’s a huge red flag that something is amiss.
How to Spot a Potential Scam
With a keen eye, spotting fake or fraudulent product pages can be easy. Look out for these potential warning signs.
1. There’s no lock icon next to the URL: If a website doesn’t have a lock icon next to the URL bar, or an “s” in “https,” that is an indicator that it may be fraudulent and your connection isn’t secure.
2. The URL is strange: Examine a site’s URL for potential red flags. If you meant to go to Amazon, make sure you didn’t land on Amason or Amazin, which could be scammers attempting to pose as the real thing.
3. The price is too good to be true: If the site is offering a product you’ve been wanting for a drastically lower price, research the seller or merchant before you buy.
4. The product listing is incoherent or strange: If the product description uses strange language or seems nonsensical, that might mean it was written by a bot.
5. There’s no address or phone number listed: Even an online retailer will have some form of office address or phone number to call. If the website doesn’t provide one, it could be a fake shop.
6. The reviews are all negative: Even the best shops are bound to get some negative feedback, but if the reviews are all negative, it may mean that the shop isn’t legit.
Where to Find the Best Deals
Though a large price decrease may be a red flag, it’s still possible to find legitimate deals online. Here are some great places for discounted online holiday shopping.
Best Buy is an electronics superstore that sells everything from TVs to speakers to video games — it’s a good destination to find the must-have gadget of the season.
Amazon is an online marketplace that quite literally has everything. No matter what you’re looking for, you can most likely find it on Amazon’s web store. You can also stretch your savings with these Amazon coupons.
Overstock is a furniture retailer known for its low prices. If you want to give the gift of home decor or furnishings, this is a great place to start. You can even grab something special for less with these Overstock coupons.
If you’re looking to purchase a gift for the fashionista in your life, Nordstrom Rack is a great place to start. Nordstrom’s discount branch still offers brand name clothing and accessories for less. You can even use these Nordstrom Rack coupons to save even more.
When to Start Shopping
The pandemic has changed a lot about this year, and that includes holiday shopping. Though Black Friday is typically seen as the start of the holiday season, this year many stores are starting early. A few big stores have already announced their plans for holiday savings, which will start earlier than usual and be offered online.
- Amazon: Amazon has already begun its Holiday Dash event, which will provide new daily deals from now until the holidays.
- Best Buy: Best Buy is offering Black Friday prices throughout the holiday season with their Black Friday Price Guarantee.
- Home Depot: Home Depot has announced that its Black Friday sales will last nearly two months, with deals available in-store and online.
- Lowe’s: Lowe’s started its Seasons of Savings sale on Oct. 22, and it will run through December.
- Target: Target will offer Black Friday deals starting in November, with new deals being offered each week.
Keep yourself organized by referring to this infographic all about safe online holiday shopping.
Your holidays should be spent socializing with friends and family, having fun and enjoying each moment — not on the phone with your bank or trying to track a package that isn’t going to come. Make sure you shop smart to not only get the best deals, but to also help keep yourself safe in the process.
For added computer security, also consider downloading an antivirus and identify theft prevention software such as Lifelock, which you can get at a discounted rate with these Lifelock coupons.
We hope that you found this blog helpful. Our content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide business, legal, tax, or financial advice. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
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