Play It Safe When Shopping This Holiday Season

So what kind of holiday shopper are you? Do you enjoy the hustle and bustle of being in the store? Or do you lean toward the comfort of online shopping in your PJs? Or maybe a mix of both?

No matter which way you choose, you should always keep safe shopping in mind. Crooks are out there in the cyber sphere as well as in and near brick-and-mortar stores, so it pays to keep up your guard. For the gift giver who prefers the hands-on shopping experience, here are some safety tips:

  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash, and keep money in your front pocket.
  • Pay for purchases with a credit card or check when possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when in a parking lot.
  • If shopping at night, park in brightly lit areas and near other vehicles.
  • Women should keep purses close to their bodies, and men should carry wallets in front pants pockets.
  • Don’t overload yourself with packages. If you try to carry too much, you leave yourself vulnerable to grab-and-run thieves.
  • Place packages in the trunk of a vehicle or where they’re out of sight.
  • Avoid shopping alone, especially at night.
  • Don’t be preoccupied with cell phone conversations when shopping.

If you’re more of a shop-at-home type, you still need to protect yourself from online thieves, whose numbers are multiplying as more people turn to the Internet to purchase gifts. Here’s some advice to shield yourself from these invisible villains:

  • Only deal with companies you are familiar with. And if you’re not sure of a company’s reputation, do a search online before interacting with them.
  • If an online deal seems too good to be true, chances are it is, especially if it’s with an obscure company.
  • Make sure your computer is equipped with the latest anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-spyware software.
  • Only use secure websites when making purchases. They’re identifiable by the icon of a locked padlock at the top or bottom of the screen and/or “https” in the URL address.
  • Don’t use public computers or public Wi-Fi to make purchases or conduct banking transactions. Thieves have an easier time accessing these computers and stealing information.
  • Only divulge information that is necessary to complete a transaction, and check out the website’s privacy policy so you know how your information will be stored and used.
  • Use strong passwords for online accounts. Such passwords should contain a mix of numbers, letters (upper and lower case), and symbols. And don’t use the same password for several accounts.
  • Only use trustworthy apps when mobile shopping. More and more people are turning to their smartphones to shop, and if you’re one of them, use apps provided directly by a retailer.
  • Once you’re done shopping online, turn off your computer or, at the very least, disconnect from the Internet. This prevents crooks from accessing your computer and installing malicious software.

No matter how you shop, make the experience a safe and secure one this holiday season.

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