We are in the thick of the holiday shopping bonanza that consumes America this time of year. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and now something called Green Monday? This is a great time to score some awesome deals, but it’s also a time when your personal information and safety can be at risk.
To keep you safe this shopping season here are 5 holiday shopping tips from online to the checkout line.
In the Parking Lot
When you are blitzing from store to store, mall to mall make sure you are not leaving your shopping bags where they can be seen. Thieves looking for a quick score will look in car windows to see what sort of bags are lying in plain site. They will then prioritize which car has the best high end bags inside and smash the window. Bags from electronic stores and fancy clothing retailers will be high on the break in list.
It’s best to put shopping bags where they can't be seen. In most cases drivers should put their bags in the trunk of their car. If you have an SUV, then put them in the cargo area at the very back. If your SUV has a privacy cover for the cargo area, use it. If you own a truck, never store your shopping bags in the open bed. Also, this may seem like an obvious one, but remember to lock your car doors.
Shop with a Friend
As we are all rushing around trying to check names off of our nice lists, we need to make sure we’re not alone when we’re out. A woman with 5 shopping bags, a purse and on the phone is an easy target for a mugger. The more things you have in your hand, the greater the distraction. You most likely won't see a would be their until they are making their move to steal your bags.
Shop in packs. A large group is harder to target than an individual. And the more eyes you have with you the more likely you are to see a potential problem. Plus it's easier to get your friends to carry your bags for you. But if you do have to go out by yourself, gather your bangs into one hand and put your phone away. That way you can focus on getting your keys and keeping your head up while walking to your car.
Retailers love to get you in your inbox. I’ve deleted about two dozen discount offers from my email just today. If you get an email with an offer that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Your email address is fairly easy to obtain by spammer and hackers so you need to look twice at emails that want you to click away from your inbox.
When you get an offer email, make sure the email has the right look, logos and web addresses associated with it. If a company logo looks pixelated or is the wrong color, then it didn't come from the retailer. Legit companies have teams of designers and marketers whose sole job is email marketing, they're not going to send the wrong logo. There’s nothing wrong with going to a retailer's web site directly and double checking the deals. Never click on a link you don’t trust.
Safe Payment Options
When shopping you are never guaranteed that your information will be kept safe. Even major retailers like Home Depot can be hacked. So the best route to safe shopping is using a credit card. Using a debit card can expose you to losing your entire checking account.
I also recommend Apple Pay. It is a more secure way to access your credit cards. Also when at the checkout counter, you don’t have to hand over your phone as you would a normal card.
PayPal is another great, secure option. You can associate a credit card with your account and use it wherever you see their logo, online and in stores. Plus you can even keep a balance with PayPal and pay directly with your funds.
This could be a whole post unto itself, so we’ll be brief. Change your passwords on a regular basis and use numbers, characters and symbols where you can. If you feel like you’ve been hacked, start changing your passwords immediately. NEVER use the same password for every account! The days of “Password1234” are long gone. If you need help coming up with a strong password click over to the Secure Password Generator.
Also make sure you phone and tablet are protected by a passcode. If your phone or iPad is stolen, you don’t want your information to be accessed easily. If you can use a fingerprint ID for the device and individual apps, then do so.
Make sure you are safe this holiday shopping season. Good luck!