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Safely Shopping Online This Holiday Season

By Armand Muniz

With the Holiday Season rapidly approaching and two years plus of re-education about how we spend our time (and our money) online it is important to remember how to keep ourselves safe. Shopping online has become second nature. We’ve all grabbed an item off a shelf and started an online search. What we are doing is the new bargain shopping. Clipping coupons and visiting multiple stores has been replaced by grabbing your phone and visiting our newest old friends: Google and Amazon. 

With this new behavior come new risks. Malware, cookies, location services, and adware. Being followed around on the internet until you finally decide to buy that new pair of sneakers you looked up last weekend. While there is nothing wrong with trying to find a bargain and save yourself some money, the steps we need to take to protect ourselves have evolved and must continue to evolve over time. The traditional methods of protection are still important to heed. 

Don’t visit sites you are unfamiliar with. Be mindful of sales or offers that are too good to be true. (It is highly unlikely that a brand-new pair of Uggs would only cost you $20 dollars, with shipping!) When using your accounts online, it is normally safer to use a credit card over a debit card as there are generally more safeguards for the consumer with credit over debit. 

We live on our phones today. And now we’re not only bombarded by phone call scams but also texting scams! If you don’t recognize the number, and they are offering you something that sounds too good to be true with a conveniently included link to go with it, don’t click it. Remember, nobody gives you something for nothing especially when money is involved. 

Look for security indicators on websites that highlight the safety of the site. Update your browsers and software. Take a moment to Google the company and look for reviews. A simple “XYZ offer SCAM” search may help. Look at refund, return/shipping policies, and terms of use for the service. Sharing personal information and how a company uses that information matters. The more sites you patronize the more potential sharing of your data will follow. 

The holidays are meant to be a time of togetherness, generosity, and joy. Some of the things we may encounter make the season seem more like Halloween. It feels like fraud is waiting under our beds (or in our web browsers).  If you take care and pay attention to your online surroundings, use your heads, and keep mindful of what you’re doing, things should go smoothly. Enjoy this Holiday Season, and happy shopping!