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Shopping Safely

shopping safely

This holiday season, don’t let the spirit of giving and receiving be interrupted with the possibility of crime. Between shopping at malls, package deliveries when you’re not home, and homes being filled with gifts, staying safe this holiday season requires changes. Here are some tips taken from a host of online resources all listed at the bottom of this article.

Shopping and using credit cards:

  • Put your card away after each use. Don’t put it in your pocket, where it could be easy to steal.
  • Use one credit card so you don’t have to chase down cards, if your purse or wallet is taken.
  • Treat your debit card as cash. If your card information is stolen or compromised, criminals can easily take funds from your checking and savings accounts. In contrast, if your credit card is stolen and used, you can file a report with the credit card company, close that account, and get a new card issued.
  • Thieves are looking for people who are distracted.  Try to stay focused on your task.
  • Do not place your purse in a shopping cart or set it down unattended.
  • Save your records of every online transaction, just like you save your physical receipts.
  • Whether you’re shopping on a phone, tablet or computer, make sure you’ve upgraded your devices with the latest software and patches.
  • Security breaches stem from flaws in software and processes. Hackers are looking for the easiest ways to exploit their victims, so stay alert this holiday season.
  • Watch out for thieves employing “shoulder surfing,” peeking over your shoulder to watch as you enter your PIN or other secure data. When entering your pin, always cover the numbers with your other hand. It prevents fraudulent cameras and recording devices, as well as shoulder surfers from capturing a critical piece of data.

Online Shopping Safety: 

Phishing emails are the number one attack vector to watch out for. When you’re making so many purchases in such a short amount of time, it can be easier for a criminal to sneak in an email that looks legitimate and requests personal information you normally wouldn’t offer. Phishing emails are sophisticated at impersonating. Don’t provide information like your credit card number, social security number or any other personal identifying data in response to an email request. And, be extra cautious about clicking on any links provided in an unfamiliar email. When in doubt, call the company.

Be selective with your Wi-Fi choices:

“Free” internet access is ubiquitous these days, and we all expect to be immediate service wherever we are, whether on our laptop at a coffee shop or on our mobile at a store. Make sure your connection is secure before you do any shopping or enter personal information online:

  • Watch out for mobile “hotspots” that could be fake – when you use them, a hacker could be viewing all your login data.
  • Consider using a VPN (virtual private network) when you’re connecting to a public Wifi hotspot.
  • Check for the “https” at the beginning of the URL – the “s” at the end is a signal that the page is secure.
  • Opt to sign in to a site before you make a purchase. It’s a hassle, but it’s another layer of security.

Be Alert in the Parking Lot

    • When someone asks for cash, these requests are generally scams and you should say no and/or quickly walk away. If followed or harassed, return to the store.  Report the incident to an employee or call security.
    • Don’t be distracted by your cell phone.
    • Look for individuals lingering in the parking lot or near doorways and avoid them.
    • When you see or hear someone walking behind you, stop and turn around or wait for others who are walking to their vehicles and walk with them.
    • If you are carrying a large number of bags, ask store employees for assistance.
    • When you plan to drop some bags off in your vehicle, but continue shopping, drive your vehicle to a new parking spot.
    • Take the time to be safe

The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign encourages shoppers to take special precautions when shopping and banking online. Check out the Mobile Banking and Payments tip card https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Mobile%20Banking%20and%20Payments_0.pdf and other resources at https://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect

Resources & References for staying safe and secure while shopping online during the holidays:

https://www.eset.com/us/resources/detail/survey-internet-of-stranger-things/

https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/identity-theft-fraud-cybercrime/

https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/winter-holiday-safety-tips

https://www.maricopacountyattorney.org/CivicSend/ViewMessage/Message/71202

About the Author

Adena Astrowsky is a prosecutor and author of Mother of Souls, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor. She recently received  an “Amazing Woman” award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona for her professional and philanthropic work. Adena lives in Scottsdale with her husband and three children.

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