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2019 Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday shopping has officially begun with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday just around the corner. Businesses aren’t the only ones after your money during the holidays — cyber criminals are on the lookout, too.

When holiday shopping, be careful not don’t fall prey to these criminals. Here are some tips to following for your online holiday shopping:

        1. Do not use public Wi-Fi for any shopping activity.
          Public Wi-Fi networks can be very dangerous, especially during the holiday season. Public Wi-Fi can potentially grant hackers’ access to your usernames, passwords, texts and emails. For instance, before you join a public Wi-Fi titled “Apple__Store,” make sure you first look around to see if there’s actually an Apple Store in your vicinity, and thus, confirm that it is a legitimate network.
        2. Look for the lock symbol on websites.
          When visiting a website, look for the “lock” symbol before entering any personal and/or credit card information. The lock may appear in the URL bar, or elsewhere in your browser. Additionally, check that the URL for the website has “https” in the beginning. These both indicate that the site uses encryption to protect your data.
        3. Know what the product should cost.
          If the deal is too good to be true, then it may be a scam. You may want to check out a company on “ResellerRatings.com”. This site allows users to review online companies to share their experiences purchasing from those companies.
        4. One-time use credit card numbers.
          Many banks are now offering a single use credit card number for online shopping. This one-time number is associated with your account and can be used in place of your credit card number. This way, if the credit card number becomes exposed, it cannot be used again. Check with your bank / credit card company to see if they have this option available.
        5. Keep your computer secure.
          When using your computer to do your holiday shopping, remember to keep your anti-virus software up to date and apply all software patches. Never save usernames, passwords or credit card information in your browser and periodically clear your offline content, cookies and history. You will want to keep your computer as clean as possible for online shopping.
        6. Avoid using your ATM or debit card while shopping.
          In the event that your debit card is compromised, criminals can have direct access to the funds from your bank account. This could cause you to miss bill payments and overdraw your account. When using a credit card, you are not using funds associated with your bank account. This means you are better protected by your credit card company’s fraud protection program. If you pay off the credit card balance each month, you won’t pay interest and your banking information will be protected.

        In addition to cyber criminals, it is also important to remain aware of the regular “run-of-the-mill” criminals during the holiday season by:

            • Never leaving purchases in the car unattended.
              Criminals can be watching and will consider breaking into your car to get the merchandise you just purchased. If you must leave some items in your car, consider leaving them in the trunk or glove compartment rather than in a visible location.
            • Being aware of “porch pirates.”
              When shopping online and receiving purchases by mail, make sure you are always tracking your packages. The US Postal Service, FedEX and UPS all have systems to track your packages, and all three utilize tracking numbers that can be used to figure out where your item is and when it should be delivered to your home.

        Remember, always trust your instincts. If an email or an attachment seem suspicious, don’t let your curiosity put your computer at risk!

        Happy Holidays and safe shopping!

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