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As Online Scams Are On The Rise, Here Are 10 Safe Shopping Habits This Holiday Season

According to Visa, there was an 11% increase in fraud rates during the 2022 holiday season, and this year is expected to be no different.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Holiday shopping is in full swing!

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Online holiday shopping | Getty Images | Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Shopping has mostly been online the last few years. It's super convenient and cost efficient to some extent. However, it comes with its threats as fraudsters are using advanced technologies to steal from unsuspecting shoppers. According to Visa, there was an 11% increase in fraud rates during the 2022 holiday season, and this year will be no different. Thus, shoppers must practice safe shopping habits to protect their financial well-being. Here are 10 safe shopping habits to follow during holiday shopping.

1. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for any shopping activity

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project
Free WiFi comes with its loopholes | Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project

Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, and can potentially allow hackers to access critical information of users like passwords, texts, emails, and even card details. Thus it is best to avoid public Wi-Fi for any online activity, let alone shopping. However, if it is necessary to use a network, users should make sure that they are logged out of their personal, social media, and bank accounts. However, it is best to avoid browsing shopping websites as even the shopping history may be compromised.

2. Buy from secured websites

Image Source: Pexels  Photo by Pixabay
Cybersecurity is a must | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

Before accessing personal or financial information, shoppers must ensure that the site they are shopping from is trusted or at least secured. When visiting a new website that may be offering exclusive deals, shoppers should carefully check the URL and look for a lock symbol which indicates that the website is secure. Further, the web address should have "https" at the beginning of the address. Also, website addresses ending with .site or any other unusual extension are automatically suspicious.

3. Use secure payment methods

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Anna Shvets
Secure payment methods | Pexels | Photo by Anna Shvets

Modes of payment like cards often offer better fraud protection than other methods. Methods like direct bank transfers, wire transfers, and peer-to-peer mobile apps are primarily targeted by fraudsters. However, not all cards may be safe. It is best to avoid using even debit cards as they are linked directly to the bank account. So, if a debit card is compromised, the shopper’s bank account may be compromised as well. Thus, is it best to use a credit card that offers better fraud protection and can also reverse fraudulent payments. Other payment methods such as PayPal which are generally more secure can also be used.

4. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication

Images Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Secure your devices with hard-to-guess passwords (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

It is best to develop a habit of refreshing the passwords of all accounts from time to time. Shoppers should at least create a new complex password for their accounts ahead of the holiday shopping season. In case users are using the same password for multiple sites, they are setting themselves up for a disaster. Further, they should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to make it more difficult for fraudsters to access sensitive information.

5. Avoid saving passwords and periodically clear browser data

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán
Clear browsing data (representational image) | Getty Images | Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Even though platforms like Google and Chrome keep recommending users to save their passwords, it is best to always avoid it. Further, credit card information or any other information should not be saved on the browser, and taking a step ahead, users should periodically clear their content data, cookies, cache, and history on their browsers. If shoppers want another layer of protection, they can sign in to shopping websites as guest users and not create accounts at all to minimize data sharing. Shoppers can also use Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode which doesn’t save browsing history, cookies, site data, or information that has been entered on forms.

6. Keep a check on bank, and credit card statements and enable transaction alerts

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Credit cards | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

While shopping online, it is best to keep an eye on all your bank accounts and credit card statements. This can help shoppers detect an unauthorized transaction early on and stop the fraud before scammers can do some serious damage. Further, transaction alerts should be enabled so that you get alerts about any unauthorized transaction. If shoppers come across any suspicious transaction, they should report it immediately and contact their bank to get their cards and accounts blocked as soon as possible.

7. Research the shopping applications

Image Source: Pixels | Photo by PhotoMIX Company
Use trusted shopping apps | Pixels | Photo by PhotoMIX Company

New-age shopping apps tend to make everything more convenient for shoppers but certain apps could also make it convenient for criminals to steal money and information. Thus shoppers should only install and use trusted shopping applications from reliable developers or platforms such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Further, before using any new application, shoppers should make a habit of checking the reviews and security ratings on the app. Further, flashy apps that offer too good to be true deals and ask for money, or sensitive information, should be avoided.

8. Keep your system up to date

Representative Image | Pexels | Photo by Szabó Viktor
Keep your devices up to date (Representative Image) | Pexels | Photo by Szabó Viktor

This holiday season, shoppers should make sure to update all their devices and software as patches to security can help them stay protected against new and emerging frauds. Shoppers should update their operating systems, shopping applications, payment platforms, and anti-virus software to prevent criminals from executing malware attacks. Updates are released to improve security by patching vulnerabilities and preventing new exploitation attempts. While it may seem tedious to go through the process, updating applications is an important step towards safe shopping.

9. Beware of email and phishing scams

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring
Email and phishing scams (representational image)| Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring

Scammers tend to lure unsuspecting victims with incredible deals and offers to execute their scams. These offers are often shared via emails and there is an influx of such emails around the holiday season. These discounts and special offers may appear legitimate, and email scammers may even create convincing duplicates of trusted websites in an operation called phishing to steal shoppers’ financial information or money. Thus if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is and it is best to avoid it keeping greed in control. Further, the URLs of all websites should be checked before making any purchase.

10. Be aware of fake charities

Image Source: Pexels | Photo by cottonbro studio
Ensure you are donating to the right organization | Pexels | Photo by cottonbro studio

Scammers often take advantage of the goodwill of people, especially around the holiday season when everyone is in a giving mood. Scammers set up fake charities and reach out to people asking for money, credit card information, or other sensitive financial information. Thus, people should ensure that their money is going to a worthy cause and verify a charity's legitimacy with organizations such as Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, or GuideStar.