Criminals and online thieves are especially active during the holiday season. Here’s how to shop safer. The holidays often bring friends and family together for celebrations and good cheer. For many, this means spending more time shopping online and at the mall for that perfect gift. Unfortunately, thieves are also busy at this time of year, looking for unsuspecting victims. 

Share these tips with your customers to help them have a safer holiday shopping experience. 

When shopping online 

  • Use a secure, unique password for your email account. Online retailers often require an email address to register at their website. If a website is compromised, criminals can leverage your email account to hack your other e-commerce accounts. 

  • Use a single card for all online purchases to minimize your risks to one account. Monitor your payment account regularly for unauthorized purchases or other charges. Consider using a prepaid card, such as a SHAZAM gift card that’s loaded with only enough balance to cover your planned purchases. 

  • Beware of phishing ads or pop-ups for “amazing” deals. Hackers often set these up to install malware on your computer when you click. The thieves could also be trolling for information, payment account credentials or other personally identifiable information (PII) used to steal your identity. 

  • Don’t shop online using public computers or networks. Libraries, food courts and coffee shops are dangerous places to do online business. Bad guys may have installed key loggers, sniffers or other malware designed to steal your information. 

  • Keep your computer and browser up to date with the latest patches and software. 

  • Shop at reputable sites and be sure the sites you visit are legitimate. Cybercriminals can create website URLs that look very similar to real websites to fool shoppers. For example: A scam site could be called hxxp://www.amaxon.com and be set up to look exactly like Amazon.com. The scam site can then steal any information you enter at the site, such as your Amazon.com login credentials or your payment card number. Pay close attention to the browser’s address bar before entering any sensitive information, and move your mouse pointer over any link that directs you to a shopping site to make sure the link takes you to a legitimate website. 

When at the shopping center 

  • Avoid driving alone or at night. If you must shop at night, park in a well-lit area, park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked. 

  • Don’t leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight. 

  • When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area. Check the back seat before getting in. Consider asking mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location. 

  • Use ATMs only in well-lit, public places. Be aware of anything that doesn’t look right — ATM skimmer devices may have been installed by thieves to steal card numbers and PINs. If there are people loitering in the area, find another terminal. 

  • Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, carrying expensive handbags or flashing large amounts of cash.
     
  • Keep records at home of your credit and debit card numbers and customer service numbers. If your cards are lost or stolen, put a block on your cards using an app such as SHAZAM® BOLT$™ or immediately report it to your financial institution to block your cards. 

  • If possible, leave children at home with a trusted babysitter. If you must shop with your kids, teach them to stay close to you at all times. Never allow them to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom or to the car. Instruct them to ask a store clerk or uniformed security guard for assistance if they become separated from you. 

  • When at home, don’t leave large displays of holiday gifts in plain view from outside your home. 

Common sense and awareness can go a long way toward helping you and your family stay safer this holiday season. If you’re unsure of your surroundings or situation, either in person or online, get away and report the suspicious behavior or scam. 

For more information 

To learn more about your rights as a consumer or to make complaints about online consumer issues, go to https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov