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Your Guide to Safe Holiday Shopping

Thanksgiving may not be here yet, but the holiday shopping season is already well underway! This time of year is filled with festivity and fun, but unfortunately, the holiday season is also prime time for scammers to target unsuspecting shoppers.

Whether you're planning to shop in-store or online, it's a good idea to brush up on safe shopping practices to protect your personal and financial information from scammers.

Here are some of our top tips to help you avoid holiday scams and prevent fraud:

Stay alert when shopping

Practicing situational awareness is smart at any time of year, but it's especially important during the frenzied holiday shopping season when thieves target distracted shoppers. While you're out and about, pay attention to your surroundings. Park in a well-lit area, and avoid leaving belongings or shopping bags in the front or rear seats of your vehicle—lock them in your trunk instead. When you're shopping in a crowded area, keep your purse or wallet close to you. Avoid walking with your head down or staring at your cellphone while waiting in line; it only takes a few seconds for a thief to steal your wallet or purse. By staying alert and aware, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of theft.

Keep an eye on your statements

With so many purchases made over the holidays, it can be easy to overlook fraudulent transactions on your credit card or account statements. Scammers know this, which is why they will often test a stolen credit card (or card number) by charging a small amount. If the charge goes through, the scammer knows they can use the card for bigger transactions. For this reason, it's best to check your accounts online regularly to spot any suspicious activity. If you do notice an unfamiliar transaction on your account, even if it's just a few cents, be sure to contact your credit card company or financial institution immediately.

Donate wisely

During the season of giving, you can count on charity scammers to ramp up their efforts and take advantage of people's generosity. Charity scammers are known for posing as legitimate organizations and soliciting people for money or their personal information. If you're contacted out the blue by mail, email, phone or in-person by someone claiming to be from a charitable organization, it's important to do some research before giving them any money. If you've never heard of the organization before, check if they are rated by a site like Charity Navigator or Remember, a legitimate charity will never pressure you into donating or withhold information about how your donation is used. These are the signs of a scam!

Only shop at websites you know and trust

Online shopping is quick and convenient, but it can also be a way for cybercriminals to access your credit card information and other personal details. Any time you shop online, be sure you're purchasing from reputable, secure websites that are verified and licensed to sell.

Here are a few tips to help you identify if a website is secure and trustworthy:

  • ​Check the URL of the website and make sure it includes the “s" in “https." This means the website is secure.
  • Look for a lock symbol in the address bar before entering your credit card number or any other personally-identifying information.
  • Before you click “add to cart," read online reviews and ratings from real customers. If you're using an unfamiliar website, do some research on the Better Business Bureau website to uncover any scam reports and complaints.
  • Steer clear of websites that offer rock-bottom prices and deals that seem too good to be true. Many times, these are phony retailers that exist only to capture your personal information. In the end, you might get a knock-off product, or your package is never delivered. 

​​Be sma​rt about shipping

With two-day and even same-day shipping, online stores have made holiday shopping much easier. However, one downside of online ordering is the rise of package theft. Especially during the holidays, criminals will scout neighborhoods for unattended packages left on porches and doorsteps. So, what can you do to keep your packages out of the wrong hands? One solution is to ship to a third-party address—such as your workplace—instead of your home. Some package delivery services have even established partnerships with local pharmacies and convenience stores who will accept deliveries and hold them until the customer picks them up.

Don't let the fraudsters put a damper on your holiday spirit! Whether you shop at a brick-and-mortar store or online from the comfort of home, we encourage you to be proactive in safeguarding your personal and financial information this holiday season. For more helpful tips, tools and resources to protect against fraud, visit Wright-Patt Credit Union's Fraud Prevention page.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!