Online Shopping Photo Illustration

Make safe and conscious shopping decisions during this year’s holiday shopping season. It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenalin-fueled shopping rush that comes from the sparkle, spirit, and sales this time of year, but a keen eye to safety can mean the difference between a merry or scary gift giving season. Here are ten things for the savvy shopper to keep in mind:

1.  Use Credit Cards Instead of Debit Cards.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually safer in most circumstances to shop with a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards usually implement more safety and monitoring mechanisms than debit cards. And unlike a debit card, credit cards are not always linked to a specific bank account.

2.  Set Spending Limits on Credit and/or Debit Cards – EverSafe Makes this Easy.

Most people shop for holiday presents on a budget. It’s not a stretch to consider setting a spending limit for a single purchase. Spending limits accomplish two goals. First, a limit means more restraint for the consumer. And, second, if a thief obtains someone’s credit or debit card information and tries to spend above that limit, EverSafe (or your bank and/or credit card company) will be notified in time to mitigate the damage.

3.  If Purchasing Products by Telephone, do so in Private.

Buying a product by phone can be convenient, but make sure you’re not within earshot of others when you make the purchase. Using a cellphone to make purchases when others are nearby may make you a prime target for Identity Theft. Even if you think no one is listening, others will have access to all of your personal information, including your name, address, phone number, credit card number, and the Card Security Code (CSC).

4.  If Shopping Online, Look for the https://.

When you are on any webpage that involves entering your information, look for “https” at the beginning of the URL in the browser address bar. The “s” in “https” stands for secure. If the page only shows “http”, you should understand that the page is not secure and if you submit your information, it may not be encrypted. Alternatively, look for a little padlock icon to the left of the web address. The padlock denotes that the website is secure and “locked.” Consumers who will be giving their financial personal information over the internet should double check the website’s security before making any purchases. Keep in mind that this should only be a concern on pages where you are entering personal information. If it is an article, blog, general information page, etc., you do not need to be concerned.

5.  Use a Secure Network Connection.

One of the easiest ways for a would-be hacker to access your personal information is through an unsecured network like public WiFi. An unsecured network—think Starbucks or the Airport—may allow you to surf the internet in public, but it allows everyone else the same opportunity. In contrast, a home wireless network or Wi-Fi is encrypted with a network password and only users who have that password can use the network. An encrypted network is not hacker proof but it certainly is safer. If shopping online, consider doing so at home or on another safe network.

6. “You’ve Won a Prize!” is Likely a Scam.

Scammers try to entice holiday shoppers to relinquish personal information by telling them that they have won a prize. These proclamations can come through the mail, by telephone, or by email. Fraudsters trick individuals by telling them that in order to receive their prize the winner must give them their personal information (e.g. Social Security Number or bank account number), or pay taxes up front, or send a small fee. Exercise common sense and reason when going through emails and mail.

7.  Ads and Coupons.

A good rule of thumb for ads, coupons and other promotions during this time of year is that if you don’t know the sender, consider throwing it out or deleting it. That old saying is true: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Printed coupons from known companies can be a good choice for consumers who prefer shopping in the store. Printed coupons from retailers may have a code that is redeemable on the company’s web store. For the most part, these kinds of coupons are reasonably safe to use. However, any kind of email or pop up that promises huge savings in exchange for personal information puts you at risk. Delete these emails and spam, without opening them. Again: WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!!!

8.  Select Secure Passwords.

Consider the following when selecting your passwords: (1) make the password 8 characters or longer; (2) don’t use your real name (e.g. JohnSmith); (3) try and make each password different; (4) include characters that are uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols (e.g.%, $, &) and (5) don’t keep your passwords written down where someone can find them. Remember that smart phones and other mobile devices should have the same level of care that a computer does in the context of protecting financial information.

9.  Make Sure Your Computer’s Safety Software is Up to Date.

Who doesn’t love shopping online? It’s convenient. It’s easy. And it saves many people the aggravation of traveling to loud and crowded malls during the mad rush to pick out presents for loved ones. Shopping online can be a good alternative, but make sure that your computer’s safety software (e.g. Norton Antivirus, Microsoft Security Essentials) is current on all software updates so that your computer is not an easy target. For additional safety measures, consider investing in financial screening software like EverSafe.

10.  Safeguard or Shred Your Personal Information and Receipts.

It’s especially important at holiday time to make sure that personal information found in catalogues and other mailers isn’t made accessible to potential fraudsters. If catalogues are disposed of, personal information should be ripped out and shredded. Receipts may contain sensitive information as well. When shopping in stores that use manual credit card machines, a carbon receipt may leave your name and full credit card number exposed. If you don’t opt to use cash, make sure that you safeguard your receipt.

Enjoy the Season of Giving, but Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones.

Happy Holidays from the EverSafe Team!