NC DPS: Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping

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Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season and has established itself as the biggest shopping day of the year. Many friends and family are shopping together and planning a day to score deals after deals. However, scammers also take advantage of the shopping frenzy this time of year. According to experts, crooks and thieves usually get more daring during the holidays, and their actions can quickly spoil anyone’s joy. Here are some tips that will help you protect your valuables and bank accounts, however you choose to shop this holiday season.

In-person purchases

Hold your purse next to your body

Don’t let your wallet be an easy target for theft. Keep it close to your body, this way it is more difficult for thieves to take. Zippered handbags and those with shoulder straps are best as a passerby cannot quickly access or remove them from your arm / shoulder. If you don’t have a purse, place your wallet in one of your front pockets. Back pockets are easy targets for pickpockets.

Use only one payment method and avoid using cash

Take a credit or debit card with you when shopping. Carrying a single card means that only one card needs to be canceled in the event of theft and minimizes the risk of fraud if your wallet or purse is stolen.

Carrying cash is attractive to thieves as there is no way to track its usage once they have it in their possession. If you are paying cash, only take it out of your wallet when the cashier requests payment. This prevents you from “showing off” your money in the eyes of others.

Be aware of your surroundings

Black Friday is the busiest and most chaotic shopping day of the year. There will be a lot of people shopping. Be smart and be aware of your surroundings. Be sure to lock your vehicle and do not leave personal items unattended or in the open in your vehicle. Some thieves choose parking lots for their vacation “shopping”.

Stay alert in and around your vehicle

There will be more people on the roads, so drive carefully and watch out for road rage. Park in well-lit areas. When you return to your vehicle after shopping, look around and under it before approaching. Place shopping bags out of sight or in the trunk, if possible.

Protect yourself from COVID-19

Remember the three W’s: wear a face cover, wait six feet from other people, and wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer frequently when shopping, and bring hand sanitizer wipes to wipe down your basket.

Online shopping

Use only secure sites for purchases

Buy from sites that use SSL or secure sockets layer protection. These sites are identified by a URL starting with https. This means that the site has a level of protection that secures your payment information against compromise during a purchase.

Since many scammers target their victims online, take extra steps to know who you shop with to protect your personal and credit card information. Check the site address for any spelling mistakes. Many scammers can misspell well-known brand or store names to convince people that they are genuine. The Better Business Bureau offers a scam tracking tool, where you can search for or report potential scams.

When it comes to shopping during the holidays for gifts, it’s best to trust your instincts. Scammers are taking advantage of the current supply chain crisis and fooling buyers with great deals. While some sites may have some highly sought after items at prices that are too good to be true, sometimes it’s best to take a step back, check the reality and walk away. Usually these offers are Too good to be true. If you decide to go ahead with your purchase, check the site’s terms and conditions and pay with a credit card. Credit card companies can work with customers if they suspect the card has been compromised.

Connect securely

Buy only through a trusted Wi-Fi connection. Avoid making purchases on public networks due to the risk of being hacked. A secure connection, a virtual private network or a hotspot will ensure the security of your payment.

Choose your card wisely

The protections against debit card fraud are not as strong as those for credit cards. This means that if your payment information is compromised, the fraudulent payment will immediately be taken from your bank account. Using a credit card will prevent a direct loss to your bank account in the event of a fraudulent debit.

Beware of donation scams

Scammers keep track of habits and know that people are generally more generous during the holiday season. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall raised concerns about WRAL Spot, avoid holiday spending scams segment on the tactics used by fraudsters. She recommends investigating charities before writing a check to make sure you are donating to an approved organization. You can use the search tool on their website. Secretary Marshall also advised to stay away from investment opportunities that promise quick returns this time of year and to contact her office with any concerns.

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