The upcoming holiday season will be a mixed bag this year. On one hand, online retail purchases are expected to increase significantly, putting more pressure on logistics and already overworked delivery drivers. On the other hand, in person stores and restaurants fight to remain open and relevant to those still seeking the traditional shopping and dining experience.

Unfortunately, criminals also look forward to this time of year to take advantage of your generosity and good will in order to line their pockets, potentially steal your identity and ultimately start their New Year in a more prosperous manner.

Protect yourself, your assets and your family while making online purchases, doing limited in-person shopping, outdoor dining and even when at home with the following best practices: 

Online Purchases

With the pandemic in full force, and many cities facing a potential second lockdown, online retail is expected to grow between 18% and 35% this season, compared to last year’s 13.6% increase.[1] You’ll want to prepare in advance for what may be the busiest delivery season on record, and an increasingly fluid stock of products. Make sure to order early for the best selection and delivery options. Also, consider the following ways to safeguard your online purchases this holiday season: 

  1. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for online purchases.Use your cell connection on your device to prevent WiFi intrusions like packet sniffing. Or, consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN) any time you enter personal data, billing addresses and credit card information over Wi-Fi.

  2. Shop with known retailers.High-end and well-known retailers invest in more online purchasing security.

  3. Be leery of online coupons.Visit a seller’s website for their coupons/deals. Alternative “coupon” sites can be clickbait and phishing attempts.

  4. Use a single window browser. Once you’re done shopping, quit out of the browser fully.

  5. Make sure the merchant’s purchasing page includes a secure connection. Secure sites will begin with “https://” and feature the icon of a padlock or an unbroken key at the bottom right hand corner of the browser. Privacy seals including: BBBOnline, TRUSTe and VeriSign indicator the site has been certified for secure financial transactions.

  6. Use merchant-specific credit cards.If an issue arises, it’ll be easier to address with the merchant you are purchasing from directly versus a third-party credit card company.

  7. Track purchases with your credit card report. Maintain receipts and records of your spending to mitigate fraudulent claims.

  8. Report fraud immediately.If you recognize disparities in your purchases versus charges, or don’t recognize a charge, contact your credit card company immediately. When in doubt, cancel your credit card and request a new one be issued.

In-Person Shopping and Dining

Each city and local jurisdiction will have rules around retail outlet and restaurant closures that are subject to change daily. Similarly, many have pivoted to feature additional services, like curbside and in-store pick-up. Make sure to check online or call ahead to learn your options.

  1. Avoid using debit cards. Debit cards allow criminals direct access to your financial assets and bank account. When you use credit cards, you are dealing with an institution’s money. When you use debit cards, the money is yours.

  2. Pay in cash. Purchasing with cash prevents any person or organization from having access to your financial records and personal identity. The tradeoff is that carrying cash could add the exposure of theft. Carry only what you need when out shopping.

At Home

More Americans are at home without much to do these days. This has increased the potential for local theft, especially as package deliveries seem to grace just about every porch. Remember to keep your doors locked while inside and bring packages in as soon as they’re delivered.

  1. Be suspicious of unexpected calls/deliveries. During this time of year, delivery services are in high demand and drivers are often in a rush. They usually ring the doorbell and leave your package at the door. Be wary of deliveries that require or request to see you face-to-face. If it is a legitimate request from a delivery service, they will leave paperwork for you to sign.

  2. Don’t let packages collect outside your home. This is an invitation for nefarious individuals to help themselves to those items or is a sure sign that you’re not home. Ask a trustworthy neighbor to collect your mail while you’re away.

  3. Be wary of phone calls for donations, or credit card cut offs. If you receive a call, don’t feel pressured to make an impulsive decision. Ask for their website to research them further or have them send you a brochure in the mail with a donation envelope.

Enjoy the Holiday Season

Safeguard your holiday season by avoiding cred card fraud and not becoming a victim of holiday schemes and scams. Institute these best practices now and they’ll become a part of your regular, year-round shopping and solicitation habits. Happy Holidays! 

To learn more on how to safeguard your assets and identity, or for a quote, contact a HUB personal insurance broker.

Get the latest information, guidance and resources on Cybersecurity to help you protect what matters most on our Cybersecurity Resource Center.