The holidays are fast approaching, and many people are beginning to curate shopping lists for their loved ones. Recent data indicates many people plan to shop online this holiday season rather than venturing to brick-and-mortar stores. Making your purchases online is quick and convenient, especially if you follow a few best practices for finding deals and staying safe. Whether you’re shopping for luxury watches or the latest electronic gadgets, keep these tips in mind.
- Ensure Your Electronic Device Has Anti-Virus
The holidays are prime time for phishing scams and viral cyberattacks. While many online eCommerce stores offer secure payment platforms with exceptional data encryption, a premium antivirus and internet security software suite is crucial for safe online shopping. Ensure your PC, laptop, and mobile devices have up-to-date anti-virus and make sure you enable automatic updates, so the program recognizes any novel scams and fraudulent URLs.
- Subscribe to Newsletters or Email Campaigns
Although no one wants their email inbox blown up with spam, strategically subscribing to newsletters or mailing lists from your favorite stores can give you an edge in online holiday shopping. Often, eCommerce stores release sales items and discount coupons to subscribers earlier than to the general public, allowing you to snag your favorite items before they sell out.
- Check Your Bank Statements Regularly
When you’re doing most of your holiday shopping online, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on your credit card and bank statements. Following each purchase, log into your online banking account and see if the posted transaction is accurate. Reviewing your statements regularly allows you to catch errors and notice any fraudulent activity quickly. This is especially important if you’re inputting your credit card information across different websites. If you notice anything unusual on your statements, immediately contact your bank or credit card provider.
- Curate a Wishlist or Favorites List
Being prepared is the key to getting better holiday deals, which means you need to start looking for gifts early. However, the best sales don’t often happen until the weeks closest to Christmas, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, create a wishlist to ensure you don’t miss out on getting your hands on the hottest holiday gifts.
A wishlist or favorites list is a dedicated application on a store or eCommerce marketplace’s website that allows you to tag your favorite items. Wishlists often send notifications when an item’s price drops or when there is a limited number left so you can snap up the last item at a fraction of the cost.
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- Shop from Home
For safe online shopping, you need a secure internet connection. While mobile devices make it easier than ever to shop from any location, the safest internet connection is the one in your own home. Public Wi-Fi networks expose your passwords, financial information, and other sensitive data to hackers, who can use that information to steal your identity and clear out your bank account. Avoid purchasing any items when connected to a public Wi-Fi server and stick to virtual window shopping instead.
- Only Purchase from Trusted Stores
When shopping for the holidays, stick to trusted online retailers, such as Amazon or Target. If you plan to shop at small independent stores, check out their online customer reviews. There are also several other ways to determine if an online store is legitimate, including:
- Checking whether the website has a trusted seal from the Better Business Bureau, Google, or PayPal
- Making sure the website URL is valid. It should have a padlock at the beginning and start with https://
- Using a website checker such as URLVoid.com or Google Transparency Report, which should run the website through various lists to find any red flags
You should also be careful which shopping apps you download on your mobile device and where you get them from. Only download apps from reliable sources, such as Android Market, Amazon App Store, or Google Play. Ensure that the app is verified by the platform, and be careful which permissions you allow the app to access — a shopping app or eCommerce store doesn’t need access to your Contacts list.
- Make Sure High-End Items Come with Documentation
The holidays are the perfect time to show you care with an extravagant gift like a Rolex watch or the latest tablet. But buying high-end luxury pieces online can be risky. If you are buying an item from luxury watch brands or fine jewelers, always ensure the piece comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and a generous warranty. Many luxury items need to be insured against damage and theft. Ensuring that your high-end gifts come with the correct documentation makes the insurance process simpler.
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- Don’t Share Unnecessary Information
When shopping online, many retailers require you to set up an account before checking out and may ask for some personal details. Common information for an online store to need includes your:
- Full name
- Shipping address
- Billing address (if different from shipping address)
- Credit card number, expiry date, and CVV code
When you complete a purchase, providing this data is normal, but be wary of websites asking for additional details that could jeopardize your safety. Divulging too much personal information online can result in identity theft and credit card fraud. Never provide your Social Security Number, bank account number, driver’s license number, or PIN. You should also be careful when providing your birth date. Although some retailers may ask for this information for birthday rewards, be cautious when sharing your date of birth.
Have Fun and Stay Safe This Season
Online shopping can be lots of fun, especially when you’re buying gifts for loved ones and imagining how excited they’ll be when they open them. While it’s easy to get carried away with your digital shopping spree, be mindful of how much you’re spending and take appropriate precautions to avoid having your personal information stolen.
As long as you implement these tips for buying your holiday gifts online, you can avoid the crowds at stores and complete your shopping list in comfort at home.