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Money Management

Be Mindful of Holiday Shopping Scams

Nothing ruins Christmas like a compromised bank account.

The December holidays are almost upon us, and good heavens, could we all use some cheer. 2020 has just been pretty terrible overall for everyone, so a little more peace, goodwill, and of course, commercialism, will go a long way toward helping us all mellow out. Unfortunately, because everyone is so stressed out and budgets are stretched thinner than usual, scammers will likely be out in especially strong force this year, determined to ruin your holiday (and potentially more if they can get away with it). If you’re shopping online for holiday gifts, make sure to keep yourself safe.

When you’re shopping online, it is typically advisable to pay using a credit card rather than a debit card. In the event you’re mistakenly charged for something, a credit card purchase can be disputed and reversed. A debit purchase occurs immediately, and once money changes hands, you’re officially out of luck. Some major retail sites like Amazon offer virtual wallet services, which are a good substitute for paying with direct debit if credit cards aren’t an option. Speaking of major retailers, make sure any business or correspondence you conduct with a retailer is the genuine deal. I get spam emails on a regular basis claiming to be from sites like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix, but I never click on any links or attachments contained in them. It doesn’t take that much work to create a convincing facsimile of Amazon designed to swipe your information, so always make sure you’re on the real site with the proper URL.

If you’re making purchases on a mobile device, then you should first use a retailer’s official app, rather than going through your normal web browser. Official apps have safeguards and encryptions that your browser might not. Make sure to lock your account with a strong password and, if it’s available, use two-step authentication so nobody can log into your account without your direct say-so. If you don’t mind spending a little extra money, a VPN service that masks your IP address can go a long way toward ensuring all of your interactions and purchases are secure.

Everyone deserves some nice things on the holidays, so make sure you’re getting the nice things you pay for. Otherwise, the “nice thing” someone else gets will be your checking account.

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