Buyer Beware – 14 Tips For Safe Online Holiday Shopping

Jan 3, 2022

The countdown is on – holiday shopping season is fast approaching with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday kick-starting the season. It’s the busiest time of the year for retailers, shoppers and unfortunately, Cybercriminals. A 2020 Experian survey found that 1 in 4 Americans have been a victim of identity theft or fraud during the holidays.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association predicts that holiday sales for 2021 are expected to increase by 8.5% – 10.5% compared to 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in consumers buying more online than ever before. Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions will likely result in consumers shopping earlier in the shopping season. Data from the Retail Council of Canada’s Holiday Shopping Survey 2021 states that consumers will be shopping earlier this year to avoid the challenges from last year due to items being out of stock, long delivery times and shipping delays. Even though we are at the “perpetual” end of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to be more vigilant as the number of scams is at an all-time high.


Online Shopping Continues to Surge in 2021

Some findings from the above-mentioned North American surveys on holiday shopping are highlighted below:

  • Shoppers spend around $1,000 on average during the holiday season.
  • Consumers this year are planning to take advantage of holiday shopping sales, more than they have previously.
  • Black Friday is expected to be one of, if not the biggest, shopping days of the year in Canada.
  • Holiday sales grew 8.3% in 2020 from 2019 the previous year.
  • Online and non-store sales grew by more than 23% in 2020 over the previous year.
  • 24% of shoppers said they experienced fraud during the holiday season and of those fraud victims, about 20% said the fraud happened while they were using a credit card to shop online.

Some of the threats out there include fake e-commerce sites, fraudulent payment processing sites, unencrypted/insecure websites and non-reputable sellers. Outlined below are 14 ways you can protect yourself when shopping for the hottest deals and keeping your information away from those on the naughty list.

1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is: Be skeptical, especially If a deal seems too good to be true and assume it is a scam. Compare prices and pictures of the merchandise at similar websites.

2. Update your device: Keep your device operating system and application software updated to make the device more secure and protect you from Cybercriminals.

3. Implement virus protection: Use virus protection to remove malware from your device and protect it from viruses.


4. Shipping scams: Watch out for seasonal scams such as shipping notification scams as they increase during this time period with the intent on asking the user to click on a link and entering personal information.


5. Watch where you shop: Shop only on sites you know such as the official online stores for in-store retailers you frequent.

6. Shop Secure sites only: Pay attention to the URL, which can tell you if it’s a secure site indicating “https” which means the website will mask or encrypt any data you share.

7. Use official apps: If using a tablet or cell phone download the official retailer app from a reputable store such as Galaxy Apps, the Apple App Store, Amazon App Store and Google Play.

8. Never make purchases on public Wi-Fi: Avoid using public Wi-Fi, as Cybercriminals take advantage of it due to limited security controls.

9. Use Strong Passwords: Use strong passwords (combination of uppercase, lowercase, special character and number) and multi-factor authentication (such as a passcode via an authenticator app or security token such as LastPass, RSA ID and Google Authenticator) for your accounts. If a Cybercriminal gets the password to one of your accounts, they could log in and order items with your stored credit card information.

10. Pay with a Credit Card: Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards offer fraud protection. Unlike with a debit card, a thief who gets hold of your credit card number doesn’t have direct access to your actual money.


Create an action plan that works for you

Now that you have set up your business and familiarized yourself with Canadian tax laws, it is time to find those contract roles. Here are some key steps you can take to get started:

11. Credit Card Autosave: Don’t autosave credit card information, as hackers can access that information in the event of a compromise.

12. Use a digital wallet app: Consider using Apple Pay, Google Pay or Venmo for a second layer of protection, as it obscures your payment card information.

13. Ship to a secure location: Ship your packages to a safe place such as your office or a shipping locker (UPS, FedEx, etc.) to prevent porch pirates from stealing your package.

14. Monitor your accounts: Check in regularly on your bank and credit card accounts to look for fraudulent charges after the shopping season.

Every year, more people shop online. Practicing safe online shopping and protecting yourself and your purchases can help you to have a relaxing and cheerful holiday season. This will ensure that your gifts get into the hands of your loved ones and not in the hands of Cybercriminals.

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