Tips for Safe Shopping this Season
Staying Safe Online and at the Store
According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales during the holiday season of 2016 hit $658.3 billion (Fortune January 2017). Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history with $3.45 billion in sales that one day. As you are doing your holiday shopping this year, whether at the mall or online, be aware of the possibility for theft and scams. Protect yourself and keep the season merry!
Parking at the mall is always a challenge during the holidays. Keep yourself and your purchases safe by following these tips:
- Arrive when the stores open to get a closer parking space in a high visibility area. If you know you will be at the mall after dark, avoid parking garages if possible.
- Consider using the valet on these trips. The extra cost is worth the peace of mind and the ease of loading up the car when you leave.
- If you must leave packages in the car while you shop, put them in the trunk or otherwise out of view of passers-by.
- Watch for anyone following you out of the store. If someone seems suspicious, go back inside for help.
- Carry a cross-body purse or a small wristlet so you don’t have to set your purse down. Many thieves wait for you to load your car and then grab the purse from the cart or wherever you may have set it down.
- Go to the bathroom before you start shopping. Stowing packages in a tiny bathroom stall is a challenge. It is hard to believe, but, people have been known to reach under the stall and grab bags and run.
- Make a list of needed items and stores and try to stick to it. Map out your plan ahead of time so you can be as efficient as possible and shop with purpose!
Shopping online is convenient and saves you the time and energy of visiting the mall or brick and mortar stores. Be sure that convenience doesn’t cost you though – be careful with the sites you visit and ensure you get what you paid for!
- For safe shopping, before entering your personal or payment information into any website, be sure it is a secure site. The easiest way to check is to look for “https” as the lead-in to the URL. If the “s” is missing, it is not a secure site and you should move along!
- Shop at well-known establishments online and use their app on your phone or tablet instead of their website. Most retailers allow you to use Touch ID for logging in – an extra line of protection for your account.
- Many companies are now sourcing items from overseas and this might not be clear. Always check the shipping date to be sure your items will arrive in time – especially if you are buying gifts.
- Make sure you get your order when it is delivered. Package thieves are active this time of year – read more about protecting your shipped packages here.
Peer to peer online selling is a hot enterprise. Children’s boutique clothes, hot toys and designer purses are among some of the items being sold on these buy, sell, trade (BST) sites. As with everything else, there are always those few people looking to take advantage of others who are looking for a deal.
- Facebook has many Buyer Beware pages that allow people to provide details of negative experiences on BST sites. Search there to see known scams as well as people who have a reputation for not delivering as promised.
- Always ask for an “in real life” picture of the item being sold. Shady sellers will find a picture of an item online and use it to post for sale. Ask for a picture that includes a piece of paper with the seller’s name and the date on it.
- Always use PayPal for these transactions and protect yourself by using only the goods and services option. The seller will incur a small fee, but you both will have 100% buyer protection. Anyone refusing to accept payment this way is a red flag.
- When you are the seller, always ship with tracking so you can confirm when the items have been delivered. As the buyer, request tracking information from the seller and watch for package movement.
- Confirm the validity of any sad stories that people post on these sites. While there are truly “down on their luck” folks hoping for a good deal, there are also many people who go from site to site posting the same story year after year about a sick student or a similar tragedy. They often get items at a discount and then re-sell at an inflated price. Always check the person’s profile page, contact them directly to ask questions and search the web to see if the story has been used before.
For many people the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” Others are trying to use this time to take from others and benefit themselves. Stay alert and be careful and have a safe and happy holiday season!