Holiday Shopping Safety Tips to Keep Your Money, Data and Purchases Safe

Protect yourself this holiday shopping season with these five safety tips.

Mother and daughter walk down street carrying shopping bags with other shoppers in the background iStock

The holiday season is a busy time of year for shopping, whether it’s buying gifts online or in person. Regardless of how you shop, it’s also a busy time of year for criminals. For example, over a third of Americans report falling victim to online shopping scams during the holidays, resulting in losing an average $387. What are the best ways to avoid becoming a victim? Here are some holiday shopping safety tips designed to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

1. Save your receipts and monitor your credit card activity.

Closeup of hands holding receipts iStock

With the increased spending of the holidays, it’s easy to lose track of receipts or where or how much you spent. And that is what criminals are counting on. In 2021, TransUnion reported nearly 20% of online shopping transactions in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday were suspected to be fraudulent.

Make sure your purchases are authentic by comparing your receipts with your credit card statements soon after a transaction so you can report fraudulent purchases sooner rather than later. Many credit card companies let you sign up for alerts for suspicious activity via emails or texts when fraud is detected.

2. Don’t leave gifts or other valuables in your car.

Woman puts shopping bags into the trunk of her car in parking lot iStock

Each year during the holiday season, criminals steal valuables from cars parked outside stores or even in driveways. They may watch you leave a mall parking lot after you loaded your car with shopping bags full of goods, then follow you home. After entering your home to drop off some bags, criminals can spring into action and steal items left in the car before you go back outside to get the rest.

If you arrive home with more than you can carry, call a family member or neighbor to help you unload so nothing is left behind. Even if you do your best to conceal items, nearby criminals may be watching. At the store, park in a well-lit area and take your valuables with you.

3. Avoid using a debit card.

Generally, using a credit card is safer than a debit card because it offers better protection against fraud. If your debit card or the card’s information is in the wrong hands, thieves could have direct access to your checking account. Most credit cards have a zero-liability policy to protect consumers from fraudulent purchases. Debit card transactions don’t offer this level of protection since funds are taken directly from your bank account at the time of purchase. 

Consider using one credit card for holiday purchases to more easily monitor transactions and potentially decrease your risk of becoming a victim if a retailer suffers a data breach. Using one credit card for online purchases could also minimize the number of accounts criminals could compromise.

4. Beware of bogus charitable causes.

Criminals prey on wanting to give back during the holiday season, hoping you’ll fall for fraudulent schemes posing as legitimate charities. It could be a request for a donation in person, via a phone call or text message, social media or email. 

One way to help you stay one step ahead of scammers is to look for suspicious contact information that doesn’t appear tied to the company the solicitors claim to represent. Ask to see official documentation for those appearing to work for reputable charities and trust your gut. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Protect your home during the holidays when you’re away.

Exterior of home at twilight with lights illuminating driveway iStock

Keep your home protected with smart home gadgets designed to keep everything safe and secure when you’re away. Various home security apps work with indoor and outdoor cameras, door locks, garage door sensors and lights you can program to turn on and off.

Are porch pirates targeting your neighborhood to steal packages? A front-door camera could help deter criminals. With your consent, services like Amazon Key let drivers deliver packages inside your garage.

Purchase AAA Membership This Holiday Season

Are you looking to get an extra level of protection this holiday season? With the purchase of AAA Membership, you also get access to ProtectMyID. ProtectMyID is a service that monitors your credit files and lets you know if there is any unusual activity, like credit inquiries or new accounts opened in your name. Give the gift of AAA Membership to a loved one this holiday season to give them peace of mind when it comes to car protection and identity theft.

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