Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Woman carrying clear shopping bag with items in it in clothing store.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - 4:05pm

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season and has made a name for itself as the largest shopping day of the year. Many friends and family members shop together and plan for a day of scoring deals upon deals. However, scammers are also taking advantage of the shopping frenzy this time of year. According to experts, scammers and thieves typically become bolder during the holidays, and their actions can quickly spoil anyone's holiday cheer. Here are a few tips that will help keep you, your valuables and your bank accounts safe however you choose to shop in this holiday season. 
 

Shopping in-person

Hold Your Purse Next to Your Body

Do not let your wallet be an easy target for theft. Keep it close to your body, that way it is more difficult for thieves to take. Purses with zip closures and ones with over-the-shoulder straps are best because a passerby can’t reach into them or quickly take it off your arm/shoulder. If you are not carrying a purse, put your wallet in one of your front pockets. Back pockets are easy targets for pickpockets.

Use One Method of Payment and Avoid Using Cash

Carry one credit or debit card with you on your shopping trip. Carrying a single card means only one card needs to be canceled in the event of a theft and minimizes the opportunity for fraud if your wallet or purse is stolen.

Carrying cash is attractive to thieves because there is no way to track its use once they have it. If you are paying with cash, take it out of your wallet only when the cashier is asking for payment. This avoids you “flaunting” your cash for others to see.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Black Friday is the busiest and most chaotic shopping day of the year. There will be lots of people out shopping. Be smart and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure to lock your vehicle, and do not leave personal items unattended or out in the open in your vehicle. Some thieves choose parking lots to do their holiday "window shopping."

Stay Alert in and Around Your Vehicle

There will be more people out on the roads, so drive defensively and be alert for road rage. Park in areas that are well-lit. When returning to your vehicle after shopping, look around and under it before approaching it. Place shopping bags out of sight or in the trunk, if possible.

Protect Yourself from COVID-19 

Remember the three Ws: Wear a face covering, wait six feet from other people, and wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer frequently while shopping and bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down your shopping cart. 

 

Shopping Online

Only Use Safe Sites for Purchases

Shop on sites that use SSL or secure sockets layer protection. These sites are identified with a URL that starts with https. This means the site has a level of protection that secures your payment information from being compromised when making a purchase.

Since many scammers target their victims online, take additional steps to know who you are shopping with to keep your personal and credit card information safe. Check the site address for any misspellings. Many fraudsters may misspell names of well-known brands or stores to convince people they are authentic. The Better Business Bureau offers a scam tracker, where you can search for potential scams or report them.

When it comes to shopping during the holidays for gifts, it’s best to trust your gut. Scammers are taking advantage of the ongoing supply chain crisis and duping shoppers with attractive deals. While some sites may offer highly sought-after items at too good to be true prices, sometimes it’s best to step back, do a reality check and walk away. Usually, these deals are too good to be true. If you decide to move forward with your purchase, check the site’s terms of sale and pay with a credit card. Credit card companies can work with customers if they suspect the card has been compromised. 

Connect Safely

Shop only through a trusted Wi-Fi connection. Avoid making purchases on public networks because of the risk of being hacked. A secure connection, virtual private network or hotspot will provide security for your payment. 

Choose Your Card Wisely

Debit card fraud protections are not as strict as those for credit cards. That means if your payment information is compromised, the fraudulent payment will be immediately drafted from your bank account. Using a credit card will prevent direct loss to your bank account in the event of a fraudulent charge.

Beware of Giving Scams

Scammers keep track of habits and know people are generally more generous during the holiday season. NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall shared concerns on WRAL’s Spot, avoid  holiday spending scams segment about tactics fraudsters use. She recommends investigating charities before writing a check to ensure you are giving to a licensed organization. You can use the search tool on their website. Secretary Marshall also advised to stay away from investment opportunities that promise quick returns this time of year and to contact her office with any concerns.  

 

Other Resources:

 

Author: 
Dabney Weems
Kirsten Barber