It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But before I get you started by humming or singing along to that rather catchy holiday jingle, let’s talk about a not-so-fun topic surrounding the holidays: holiday shopping fraud. 

Whether you’re one that embraces the holly jolly magic of the holiday season or one that’s more humdrum, one thing we all probably have in common is shopping for gifts for the special people in our lives. As shopping season kicks off, it’s no secret that it can bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly in people.

As fraud continues to run rampant and scammers discover inventive ways to steal your information, it’s crucial to remain more vigilant than ever, especially during the fast-approaching holiday season. Unfortunately, fraudsters and criminals don’t run away and hide just because of the time of year it is. In fact, they’re practically standing by waiting to prey on innocent shoppers due to increased distractions and the overall busyness that comes along with the holidays.

In-Store Holiday Shopping Tips

This holiday season, we’re sharing tips for ways you can be on high alert and shop smart and safe to get the best deals while protecting yourself, your identity, and your wallet. If you’re an in-store shopping kind of person, be sure to take these extra precautions:

  1. Use a credit card instead of your debit card (pro tip: make sure it’s your GOLD Credit Card!).

  2. If you only have a debit card (hint, hint, your GOLD Debit Card, that is), run the transaction as credit by tapping the green (or sometimes yellow) button on the pin pad. This will help further protect you and your identity by not having to key in your PIN number.

  3. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash when shopping, and always keep your personal belongings like your purse or wallet secure at all times.

Online Holiday Shopping Tips

The pandemic has driven people to shop online more than ever before. And it’s pretty easy to understand why. Online shopping is the ultimate convenience. You can shop for practically anything and everything you could ever need and want in just a few quick clicks while avoiding crowded shopping centers and malls. Best part? You get all your holiday shopping done from the comfort of your own home. So, if online shopping is more your speed, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure the online website store page you’re shopping from is secure. There are a couple of ways you can do this. The first is to check that the URL starts with “https://” and not “http://” as that extra “s” means the site is more secure. The second is to look for the padlock icon, which is typically seen in the top left of the URL.

  2. Stick to reputable retailers that you trust and have purchased from before. When you’re checking out, don’t save your personal information on the website that you’re shopping from.

  3. If you have website store accounts already, be sure to create strong, unique passwords that require special characters and numbers and incorporate capital and lowercase letters. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords regularly.

  4. In this digital age, social media platforms like Facebook are another way for scammers to prey on the innocent. You’ve more than likely come across legitimate sponsored ads on Facebook that are designed to pique your interest and entice you to buy a specific product. While most ads you see are indeed genuine, Facebook scammers are becoming more advanced with their “skills” and are finding unique ways to take advantage of the platform’s advertising features. A critical step to take before opening any ad is to carefully analyze it. Are you familiar with the store and is its name spelled accurately? Are there any misspellings in the post or ad itself? Is there a blue checkmark next to the store’s name (this is a verified badge, but please know that it won’t always appear, especially in the case it’s a smaller-scale, lesser-known store)? Does the ad make sense coming from this particular store? Does the ad have the word “sponsored” above the post? These are all key things to look for before you open an ad on social media. If you have any doubts that it’s not legitimate or the ad itself or its price tag seems too good to be true, then unfortunately, it probably is.

  5. Secret Santa gift exchanges are a fun way to get people in the holiday spirit but beware of these types of exchanges on social media. If you receive an invite from someone you don’t know asking to participate in a holiday gift exchange or online party, be sure not to open the invite; it’s better to just delete it immediately. Oftentimes these gift exchanges are a type of pyramid scheme where scammers lure you in to purchase a gift and promise a gift in return for the same value, while requiring you to provide your personal information. Remember to never give your information out to strangers, especially ones you don’t know over social media/the internet.  

Depending how frequently you shop online, you may find that you’ve got packages arriving on your front doorstep every other day. That being said, try to avoid leaving packages outside for long periods of time. Unfortunately “porch pirates” follow delivery drivers or lurk around homes waiting for the perfect moment to steal packages. Not only do they now have everything you’ve purchased, but they also have your personal information. And if that were to fall into a scammer’s hands, they could have a field day accessing and stealing your confidential information.

Instead of leaving your packages sit outside all day, have a trusted neighbor pick it up or request that the package is left at the nearest pick-up location. Another option to consider is requiring a signature for deliveries. While this may be looked at as an inconvenience, you wouldn’t have to risk dealing with stolen packages or worse—your identity.

Remember, once you do bring your packages inside your home, be sure to shred all the documents that may contain your personal information (name, address, bank account information, etc.).

Shop Safe and Smart

Whether you prefer to holiday shop in person or online, it’s especially important to consistently monitor your credit report, credit cards, and bank accounts. By doing so, you will be more aware of possible credit misuse and fraudulent purchases showing up on your statements.

Shop safely and remain alert to your surroundings this holiday season (and every day!) and remember that GOLD is always here for you. If you fear that you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, please reach out to us at 484-223-4200 and report it to your local authorities immediately. 

Cindy Woodring

Cindy Woodring

Cindy is the eServices Experience Leader at GOLD. She is responsible for the functions of the eServices department at GOLD, including Member services, card services, and electronic transaction services. She gets tremendous satisfaction from providing the Members of GOLD with memorable and positive customer service experiences and leading her department in making a difference for Members every day.

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