Online Holiday Shopping Safety Checklist
Holiday Shopping Scams – Some Things Never Change, But Some Do
First, what matters most. Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, health, and happy holidays!
Thanksgiving generally marks the start of the holiday season. It’s tradition for many American families to get together with family and friends, stuff ourselves with more food than we thought possible, take a nap, then scour the newspaper (or Internet) for great holiday shopping deals.
2020 is different.
This year many of us will be separated from family as COVID-19 continues to ravage what was a “normal” and traditional lifestyle. Sure, we’ll still eat, nap and shop. We’ll just do it differently this year.
Sadly, something that’s not different are scams. What is supposed to be a time for joy, love, and hope, should not become a time for worry, fear, or scams.
Don’t let scammers steal ANY of your joy this holiday season!
Scammers are given a prime opportunity to cash in on our busyness, poor habits, and inadvertent mistakes. It’s not just consumers who fall prey either, it’s the people we do business with too.
How Is Holiday Shopping Different in 2020?
This year is a perfect storm for scammers. Opportunities for the scammers have never been greater and neither has our level of distraction. The math looks a little something like this:
Opportunity + Distraction = Success
Increase opportunity or distraction means more success for scammers. Increase both at the same time, and it’s the best-case scenario for them, worst case scenario for us.
More Opportunity Than Ever (for Scammers)
Last year (2019) was a record breaker for overall holiday spending ($730 billion), online holiday spending ($135.35 billion), and mobile retail sales ($71.3 billion). The best opportunity for scammers is online transactions because there are more potential victims in a single attack, a better return on their investment.
Online holiday shopping has increased every year since it became a reality, but this year could witness an explosion, especially with the second wave of COVID lockdowns. eMarketer, a leading market intelligence firm is predicting 35.8% sales increase to $190.47 billion. https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-holiday-ecommerce-sales-will-surge-35-8-190-47-billion-offsetting-brick-and-mortar-declines
Less Attention Than Ever (from Consumers)
People are distracted. There are thousands (millions) of impactful things going on all around the world, seemingly at the same time. From COVID-19, to election controversies, to social justice issues, to online schooling and work from home, etc. It might be safe to say people are more distracted this holiday season than in any past holiday season.
Nobody is more responsible for your protection more than you are, and the equation for protection is a simple one.
Awareness + Habits = Protection
This holiday season we’re not just into protecting our money, we’re also into protecting our safety and joy.
2020 Online Holiday Shopping Safety Checklist
- Print a copy of this checklist for yourself and post it next to (or on) your computer.
- Follow the checklist.
- Share this checklist with others.
This checklist is organized into sections (MANDATORY and OPTIONAL) and subsections (BEFORE shopping, WHILE shopping, and AFTER shopping). If you need help with any of this, tell us! Contact SecurityStudio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following checklist items are mandatory, MUST follow requirements.
BEFORE providing any information on a shopping website:
STOP for a second and ask yourself if there’s anything that seems unusual.
ALWAYS double-check the URL (web address) in your browser.
Make sure there’s nothing sneaky or unusual like a typo or funky name. Pay special attention to uppercase “I” (the 9th letter in the alphabet) used in place of a lowercase “l” (the 12th letter in the alphabet) and the like.
DO NOT buy anything from an unfamiliar retailer without confirming legitimacy.
If you can’t confirm legitimacy, go somewhere else. Ways to confirm legitimacy are through online reviews, a few Google searches, and/or scanning through their website. Telltale signs for illegitimacy are no/missing physical address, no/missing contact phone number, and/or shoddy (or missing) policies (privacy, return, etc.).
DO NOT rush, especially when jumping at the lowest price.
Take your time and think a little. Maybe step away from the computer for a second or two and grab a cup of coffee. MMMMM coffee!
NEVER make purchases on public Wi-Fi.
Of course, a virtual private network (VPN) can help, but shopping from your own network is always a better idea.
WHILE shopping online:
DO NOT shop from third-party apps.
If you’re shopping from a mobile device, use the official retailer app (preferred) or the built-in web browser.
DO NOT save your credit card information in your online shopping accounts.
It might be convenient, but how hard is it to reach into your back pocket (or purse) to pull out your credit card? If you’ve already saved credit card information in an online shopping account, go delete it now.
ALWAYS ship to a secure location.
Unattended packages left sitting on a doorstep are prime targets for theft.
ALWAYS use strong passwords for online shopping accounts and use a password manager.
Crappy passwords are certain to get your information compromised, and life without a password manager is more miserable than it should be. If multi-factor authentication is available from the retailer, even better. Use it.
NEVER give retailers anything more than they need.
Retailers only need information to 1) process your transaction, 2) get your product to you, and 3) get in touch with you. This means payment information, addresses (shipping/billing) and contact information only. Retailers don’t ask for Social Security Numbers (or God help us, they shouldn’t)!
ALWAYS read the information on retailer webpages, paying special attention for any checkboxes.
You could be opting in for something you didn’t want to opt in to.
ALWAYS buy with credit cards, NOT debit cards.
There’s better protection for credit cards in case something goes wonky.
AFTER shopping online:
ALWAYS check your financial accounts on a regular and periodic basis, like ALL of them.
You should be doing this all the time, not just during the holiday shopping season. Early detection can significantly limit your losses and frustration.
These are things you should consider for additional protection.
USE Apple Pay or Google Pay.
These payment transactions are more secure than traditional payment card transactions. Your card data is never shared with retailers, only tokenized data.
USE a virtual private network (VPN).
All the time or whenever you do anything sensitive online (like accessing your bank account, accessing medical information, buying stuff, etc.).
CHECK security policies on retailer web sites.
USE prepaid debit cards.
If the card is compromised, your loss is limited by the limit on the card, not your entire bank account.
USE SecurityStudio’s FREE S2Me to learn how to secure yourself (and your family) better.
Good information security stems from good habits, and habits are formed over time. SecurityStudio is here to help, with no strings attached. Visit: https://s2me.io today.