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Shop Early, Often, Small Or Large; That Doesn't Matter, But Shopping Safely Does

Published: November 23, 2021 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Halloween is over, Day of Dead has passed. Bring on the holiday shopping! This means it’s also a great time to remind everyone about good security practices for keeping your money and identity safe during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and any other big sale day that comes up giving us ample opportunities to part with our money. Cyberthieves are probably even more excited than the rest of us. They can make off with a good profit from everyone else’s holiday cheer. So, please keep these tips in mind when shopping, whether you’re actually putting on "real" clothes and leaving the house for the brick and mortar stores, or opting to stay in your favorite lounge wear and shopping online at your favorite retailers.

Credit vs. Debit

It’s still better to choose the “credit” option when swiping, inserting, or tapping your payment cards. You do have some protections, when using them as debit, but the possibility of your card being re-created and used at an ATM still does exist. If you use them as “debit,” you are required to enter your PIN, and if thieves get that, it makes it easier for them to drain your bank account. With the “credit” option, there remains a chance of fraud, but they can’t deplete your cash.

Try Using Apple or Google Pay Instead

By now, you should have a payment card with a chip or that can be used to tap on the card readers. If, for some reason you still have the mag strip, you can still use it most places, but consider adding it and any other payment cards to your Apple Pay or Google Pay app on your smartphone. This keeps your actual number and other information secure.

Small Businesses are Not Immune to Cybercrime

Cybercriminals don’t discriminate based on the size of the retailer. Small businesses are being targeted more and more these days for many reasons. However, one big one is that they just don’t have the number of resources the larger ones do or that are needed to implement strong cybersecurity practices. Support your local small retailers, but use the same safety practices you would for any retail purchase. Don’t assume that because they’re small, they are invisible to cybercriminals.

Don’t Wait on Statements

Take time to frequently review all accounts and statements throughout and after the holiday season. Go to your accounts online or using the apps and review charges every few days for potential fraud. It is quite possible that you will use your payment cards and accounts a lot more frequently this time of year. The more you pull out those cards, the higher the risk of the information from them being stolen and used for fraud. If you notice anything suspicious on your accounts, report them to your financial organization immediately.

Different Rules, but Also the Same

By all means, do your shopping online. However, keep in mind that there are different considerations when doing so.

  • Make sure each of your accounts have different login names and passwords. It is still true that cyberthieves reuse passwords they steal or buy on the underground markets.

  • When typing payment card numbers into a website, make sure the sites you are using are secure. While ensuring this is becoming more complicated, you should still look for the little lock icon in the browser and that there is an “https://” preceding the web address. Sometimes there are other browser indicators, such as a color change of the address. If an unsafe site warning pops up, take it seriously and don’t continue shopping at that site.

  • Try to use online shopping websites you have used in the past and are bookmarked. Typing in addresses may result in typos that end up sending you to a malicious website rather than the ones you intend to visit.

  • Beware of malicious advertising. This is likely to be ramped up. Don’t click advertisements you see on the sides of the websites, but go directly to the website being advertised remembering to triple check the spelling before hitting the return or enter key.

  • Always have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and keep it updated on every device when online shopping.

  • For ultimate security, remember that brick and mortar stores will likely accept your cash as payment, even in the age of COVID.

So, head out there and shop till you drop and enjoy your holidays. Just do it securely.

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