Although some early birds may have already started holiday shopping, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is considered the official start to the holiday shopping season. And after Black Friday, of course, is Cyber Monday, a day that’s become synonymous with exceptional online deals.
More than half of holiday shoppers surveyed (55 percent) say they’re planning to do at least some shopping online this year, according to the National Retail Federation ’s 2018 Holiday Spending Survey. Sales and discounts were cited as the largest factor in choosing a particular retailer, at 71 percent. Consumers are also planning to spend 4.1 percent more this year, or an average of about $1,000, according to the survey.
But whether you’re online looking for good deals on Black Friday or spending online on Cyber Monday, don’t forget that scammers, hackers and thieves may also be there, as those days can be a bonanza for them too.
Here are some suggestions to help better safeguard your identity and your financial information while shopping online — at any time.
— Check your network, computer and website security. Sipping a holiday latte at a coffee shop while browsing on a wireless or mobile device may sound like fun, but it’s best to use a secure Wi-Fi network – not a public network – for online shopping. And remember, just because a network requires a password doesn’t mean it’s secure.
Similarly, make sure your computer or device has antivirus software installed and up to date before you enter your credit card number and shipping address.
BONUS TIP: Make sure to check the security of websites you visit. Look for sites with a URL starting with “https” rather than “http.” That means the site has an encryption system in place.
— Watch your clicks. Phishing sites and fake coupon scams are a danger any time. Click email links to a retailer with caution. Double-check the URL and make sure the site is legitimate.
If you click on a coupon post on social media and it sends you to a survey, lands you on a site that doesn’t appear to be related to the store or asks you to pay for a coupon, it’s likely a scam, according to the Better Business Bureau. And remember: If a deal seems too good to be true, it just may be. Go to the retailer’s site directly to check the offer.
Resist the convenience of storing your credit card information on a site. Yes, it means you’ll have to re-enter it if you’re making another purchase, but it can help keep your number out of the wrong hands.
BONUS TIP: If you find yourself on an unfamiliar site, it’s worth taking a moment to check the company’s online reviews and whether the company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Watch out for sites that look poorly designed or have broken links. And if a site asks for your Social Security number, consider that a red flag for fraud.
— Keep up with payment methods. Consider using a credit card instead of a debit card for online purchases; credit cards generally have better consumer protections, meaning you likely won’t be held liable for any unauthorized charges. Also, a credit card isn’t linked to your bank account like a debit card may be.
Speaking of consumer protections, it’s never a bad idea to familiarize yourself with consumer protections for your specific cards before starting your holiday shopping. You’ll be better informed about what your credit card company must cover in case of fraud.
BONUS TIP: Be sure to track which payment method you’re using on which sites. In case of unauthorized activity, you’ll be better able to identify legitimate purchases.
— Read your statements. In the months after your holiday shopping is complete, keep a close eye on your bank statements, credit card statements – and yes, your credit reports. It’s the best way to catch fraudulent activity early and take action.
If you do spot fraudulent activity on your credit card, reporting it immediately can help limit your liability. Read more from the Federal Trade Commission.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
Doing a little extra prep work and staying cyber aware while shopping online can help ensure you’re better protected – and help ensure your holiday season is merry and bright.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.