Tips for Safe Online Shopping During The Holidays
Online shopping for the holidays hit a major high in 2020 with over $188 billion spent on online purchases instead of in-store, a 32.2% increase over 2019. This year we predict online shopping to be just as popular and we also expect that some online scammers will try to use this holiday season to take advantage of shoppers. Here’s how to stay safe online shopping during the holidays.
Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Our VP and Managing Editor Casey shares some of our best tips for shopping safely online during the holidays.
In This Post
- Choose Your Payment Method Wisely
- Be Careful Where You Shop
- Confirm the Website is Secure
- Never Give Out Personal Information
- Watch Out For Phishing Emails
- Inspect Logos and Names of Websites
- Review the Retailer’s Contact Information
- Read Online Reviews
- Visit Social Media Pages
- Keep Your Devices Safe
For over 20 years, we’ve been vetting stores and sourcing deals from trustworthy websites and we have a handful of helpful tips when it comes to shopping safely online. These tips are used every day by our own deal experts and are a huge reason why we’re considered The Safest Place to Shop On Earth.
Choose Your Payment Method Wisely
There are a lot of payment options out there right now. PayPal, credit cards, debit cards, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, the list goes on. The payment type you choose can help protect you should anything go awry with your purchase.
Pay With a Credit Card
When in doubt, pay using a credit card. We can’t tell you the number of times a savvy shopper has come to us saying they ordered from a sketchy website and never received their order. We always give them the same advice: File a dispute with your credit card company and ask them to reverse the charge.
There is no harm to you in doing this. You are alerting the credit card company of a fraudulent business as well as getting your money back.
Check For Additional Protection
Some cards provide additional purchase protection for items that are lost, stolen, or damaged. We love to use these cards because it’s an added layer of security on top of the ability to dispute scam charges.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card lets you easily dispute a charge online and offers free account alerts for any suspicious charges. Plus, earn 5% cash back in Q4 2021 by shopping online at Walmart or paying with PayPal.
Always Review Your Monthly Statements
Keep an eye on your monthly credit card charges. If anything looks out of the ordinary, flag it with your bank as soon as possible. Sometimes if you don’t catch it for a cycle or two, the bank is unable to reverse the charge.
Be Careful Where You Shop
With the thousands upon thousands of online retailers out there, be sure you’re shopping at legitimate and trustworthy websites by following these tips.
Confirm the Website is Secure
Take a look at the URL bar whenever you visit a website. You want to shop sites that start with https:// and not http:// as the S in the URL stands for secure.
Never Give Out Personal Information
Yes, you’ll have to provide your basics like billing and shipping address and credit card information, but any website asking for more than that is suspicious.
Don’t ever give out any personal information other than the basics that all other shopping sites ask for. When in doubt, ask yourself if stores like Macy’s or Kohl’s would require the information for purchase. If not, don’t give it out.
Watch Out For Phishing Emails
If you get an order confirmation email from a company you don’t remember ordering from, it should raise a red flag, especially if the email address it’s sent from isn’t an official company address. Here’s how to spot a phishing email:
- Order confirmation emails usually come immediately, or within a few minutes, after you make a purchase online. If you’re getting a confirmation or “thank you” email and you haven’t bought something within the last 15 minutes, it’s probably a scam.
- Scammers often riddle phishing emails with misspellings and poor grammar, because people who don’t notice these things are more likely to fall for their tricks. If a supposed auto-confirmation email from Target is stuffed full of typos, it’s not from Target.
- As we mentioned above, double-checking the sender’s email is important. If a Macy’s rep is emailing you, they will have an @macys.com email address. If they don’t, they’re not legit.
- Hover over (but don’t click!) on links in the body of the email. If they seem to be directing you somewhere other than the official store site, delete and don’t look back.
Inspect Logos and Names of Websites
If the logo in an email or on a Facebook page doesn’t match the website they’re sending you to, be wary. For example, our logo says “Brad’s Deals” very clearly and our website is www.bradsdeals.com. This is what you want to look for. If you see a Wayfair logo on Facebook and the website it takes you to is something like retailgoodssale dot com, you can likely assume they’re a scam page just looking to take your money. Always, always check the website URL to know who you’re ordering from.
If you’re ever unsure about a website’s legitimacy, message us on Facebook and we’ll check them out for you. After twenty years of deal hunting, we can spot a fake or scam website from a mile away.
Review the Retailer’s Contact Information
If you do find yourself on a website you haven’t been to before and it looks safe to you, check their contact information. Make sure they offer a direct email address, phone number, and even mailing address so that you know the company is real. This is not foolproof and you should still take caution, but having clear and direct customer service contact information is an easy way to spot a legitimate company.
Read Online Reviews
Check the reviews online for any company you aren’t familiar with. Don’t focus solely on the star rating, read the actual reviews to get a sense of the company’s business practice. Be wary if there are a lot of reviews saying the company doesn’t respond to emails, that orders were not received, that the company was difficult about returns or refunds, or anything else that would make you uncomfortable.
Visit Social Media Pages
Along with reading reviews, you can get a sense of a company’s reputation by checking out their social media pages. Do they have a lot of followers? Are the majority of their comments positive or negative? Do a lot of comments complain about slow shipping, poor customer service, or other issues? You can tell a lot about a business by seeing what their actual customers say about them on social media.
Keep Your Devices Safe
Keeping your laptops and mobile devices up to date security-wise is a very important step to safe shopping during the busy holiday months.
Make Sure Your Anti-Virus Software Is Up To Date
Make sure you keep up with the latest anti-virus software updates to protect your computer. If you need to purchase new anti-virus software or are looking for additional protection, we have several coupons available for Norton, McAfee, and Avast.
Choose Secure Passwords
Always create or select passwords that meet the following criteria:
- At least 15 characters in length. Anything shorter is easier to crack.
- Use a variety of characters. Choose upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Avoid using easy to guess substitutions. If your pet’s name is Cookie, hackers can just as easily try c00k1e even if you think it’s more secure.
Do you have any tips to add to our list? Let us know how you stay safe shopping online in the comments!