Get Your Stuff, Keep Your Identity: A Guide to Safe Holiday Shopping

Patty Chang
Greater Nevada Credit Union

‘Tis the season to be jolly! And a big part of the season is holiday shopping. If you're a crack-of-dawn-Black-Friday type, holiday shopping can be a lot of fun, buying gifts you know will bring joy to the ones you love. It can also be a hectic time, where you cut in line at black Friday, snatch the last Playstation 4 and try to make it out of Wal-Mart before an angry mob erupts. Either way the season won’t be as merry and bright if you are a victim of holiday fraud. So here are a few tips to keep your identity (and you!) safe and secure while holiday shopping.

When shopping online – know your retailer!

If you are purchasing from a new online store, do a little research.  Don’t buy from someone who you have never heard of or cannot verify through other’s reviews, recommendations or referrals.  If in doubt, try to find the same item at a retailer you know and trust.

Check site security

When using a debit or credit card online, make sure the site you are using has a “Secure Server” at the time of checkout.  You can tell this by the URL: “https:www.yourfavoritestore.com.”  The “s” in this website address indicates a secure connection that allows you to use your card with less worry about it being compromised.

Think about your payment method

Before you enter your credit card information while shopping online, consider using a payment service such as PayPal or others, where you can store your credit card information on a secure server and pay without revealing that information to individual merchants. If you do enter the information to the merchant directly, keep in mind that credit cards are a safer choice in this venue than debit cards, as they are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.

Don't buy without looking

If the price you are paying is too good to be true – it just might be.   Double check all the details of the purchase, including sizing charts and product details.  It also makes sense to check return/exchange policies before you realize you are stuck with 20 fruit cakes!

Pay attention to your surroundings

If you are fighting crowds at a Super Fantastic One of a Kind Crazy Deals Everywhere sale, be alert and aware while you are shopping.  Don’t leave your purse unattended in shopping carts.  Cover the keypad when entering your PIN at checkout.  Scan your surroundings in the parking lot of the store and request assistance if you are uncomfortable.   Put packages in the trunk whenever possible – thieves love window shopping!

Track your spending

As always, keep your receipts and check your statements periodically to ensure all of the purchases were made by you.  The best way to stop fraud/identity theft is to catch it as soon as possible.

Hopefully, when you follow these guidelines, the only switcheroo you will have to deal with is trying to decide what to re-gift and what to return!  Happy holidays!

11/26/2013