Unfortunately, this season’s holiday is going to be much like the rest of 2020: risky. With many people taking the necessary precautions to not contract or spread the coronavirus, a lot of people are doing most of their shopping online. By distancing from others and using the Internet to do the lion’s share of your holiday shopping, you take on different risks. Let’s go through some of them today.
Would you step foot in a store and start telling people your credit card number or street address? No? Well, if you don’t take protections when you are shopping online, it is essentially like giving over your sensitive information to strangers. Also, the number of scams you need to avoid online triples.
The best way to protect yourself when purchasing goods and services online is to use a credit card, not one that is tied to your bank accounts in any way. There are also services like Apple Pay, PayPal, and Venmo that are good options. Credit card companies offer better fraud protection than your bank does, with them refunding most reasonable claims of fraudulent behavior very quickly. Your bank will take more time and sometimes won’t work as well to protect your money.
Finally, you should consider shopping at reliable, trustworthy sites. The first thing you do before entering your personal or financial information into a web form is to make sure that the page you are on carries a security certificate. If you see “https” or a lock icon in the address bar, you can proceed with transactions.
Really, one of the main problems with shopping online is that you are often coerced into giving over more information than you would otherwise. This is an ongoing issue that consumer rights groups are lobbying lawmakers to address. Until they do, it’s on you to keep your data private and protected.
Get the Timing Right
2020 has been a rough year and a lot of people have had to wait longer than usual to get their holiday shopping finished. With so many people waiting to the last minute, and with most of them shopping online, you may encounter a situation where the products you are looking for will be on backorder or simply not available.
You will also run into a situation where shipping companies are going to be so busy, a lot of packages that would have come in a day or two back in July, won’t show up for five-to-ten days. With delivery times becoming more variable than ever it’s a solid strategy to get your orders in now so they have a reasonable chance to be delivered by Christmas (next Friday).
If you do make it out to a store, you may find that things are slower moving than normal. Companies have had to make a lot of hard decisions in 2020, and some of them include not hiring the extra help they typically have around the holidays. Less people means longer wait times. Nothing is worse than waiting in line for a long time with a mask on your face, but consider how the clerks feel...they have to wear theirs for nine hours a day. The truth is, everyone is trying to accommodate, but it’s just a difficult situation at the moment, so be kind.
Avoid All the Scams
The holidays always bring out the scam artists, but expect 2020 to be worse than ever. You will need to understand that if you plan on doing business online, that you will probably encounter a scam or two along the way. Here is a list of suggestions we put together to help keep you safe while shopping online:
- Build Strong Passwords - You will want to have complex and well-considered passwords; and, you will want to use multi-factor authentication on as many accounts as you can. This won’t make you immune to hackers, but it will go a long way toward securing the juncture points where these tech-savvy scammers will infiltrate and corrupt. Also, don’t use the same password on multiple sites and accounts.
- Understanding Phishing - You will need to be vigilant when going through your emails and other messages. A message that seems benign could be a major problem if clicked on. You will also want to avoid downloading attachments from messages unless you are certain who the sender is. A good rule is to verify before clicking on anything from anyone, especially right now. This time of year people are inundated with forms and questions and they’ll give over information that they typically wouldn’t, just out of fatigue. You need to be deliberate about online transactions.
- Don’t use “Free” Wi-Fi - A lot of people like to use outside Wi-Fi to save money on their wireless bill. This seems reasonable before you consider that hackers prey on these wireless accounts and can siphon information and even money off your mobile device if you don’t have the security in place to protect yourself.
This holiday season will be strange for most of us, but that doesn’t mean you need to put yourself at further risk. Have you encountered any scams in your holiday shopping this year? Have you seen other problems that we didn’t touch on? Leave your concerns in the comments section and have a healthy and happy holiday season.