Online shopping is going to skyrocket this holiday season. Scams too. Here’s how to protect yourself.

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It’s not just the pandemic that has pushed more people online. Long before COVID, more and more shoppers decided to avoid the crowds and just click for their holiday giveaways.

And I understand. I hate shopping, especially on vacation. There is the search for a parking space, the crowd of customers, the long line in the 10-lane stores but only three cashiers working at the checkouts.

The old phrase “Buy until you drop” has become more like “Buy until you want to scream”.

So it makes sense that for the first time in Gallup’s look at holiday spending trends, a majority of Americans – 56% – say they’re very likely to do their Christmas shopping online. This is an increase of eight percentage points from 2017.

In 1998, when Gallup first asked a question about online shopping, only 4% of Americans said they were likely to shop through the Internet. Gallup doesn’t ask the question every year.

“The trend since 2017 looks more like a continued organic growth in the number of people who spend their lives online over the past 20 years, rather than a bump from a pandemic,” Lydia Saad, chief research officer social in the United States at Gallup, said in an interview.

Americans said they personally plan to spend an average of $ 886 on Christmas gifts, according to the Gallup poll. This makes the holiday season for the crooks. With online shopping opening up more opportunities to scammers, here are some tips to protect yourself online.

Pay with a credit card, not a debit card

You might think that you can avoid getting into debt by paying with your debit card. But a credit card purchase offers more protections to consumers than a debit card.

If you pay with a credit card for goods or services not received, you have certain rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $ 50, and even then most lenders won’t charge you anything. Charges for goods and services that have not been delivered as agreed may be disputed as a billing error. You can ask your credit card company to temporarily suspend payment while they investigate a fraudulent purchase.

The rules governing your debit card fall under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which does not have any type of error not delivered as agreed that can be challenged, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

If you are paying with a debit card for a service or product that is never received, you should work with your bank to dispute any charges that have already been deducted from your account. It could mean some time before the transaction is rolled back. Your debit card is directly linked to your bank account, and fraudulent transactions can quickly do a lot of damage.

If you don’t have a credit card, use a prepaid debit card to buy things online.

Watch out for unrealistic shipping promises

Supply chain issues have led to shortages, and scammers know people will be looking for retailers who can promise fast, free delivery. In your desperation to get a gift in time for the holidays, you might fall for a scam. But you don’t just risk getting something late – it might never come. Be skeptical of shipping guarantees that sound too good to be true.

Beware of fake SMS and shipping emails

Don’t click anything in text or email. It may be legitimate, but why take the risk? Instead, go to the retailer’s website and enter your shipping or purchase code to verify your order details, advises the Better Business Bureau.

Be a guest

Many online shopping sites require you to create an online account to make a purchase. But in order to do this, you have to give up personal information stored in another database. If you end up with a scam site, you will be giving away information that could be used for present and future scams. Find out as a guest so you don’t have to provide too much information.

Don’t be fooled by a gift card offer

Inflation worries you about how far your money will go. But this email or text offering a $ 50 gift card is bogus. They all are. Seriously. If you think this is real, go to the online retail site or call customer service to determine if the offer is legitimate.

Scammers love gift cards too

If you’re told to pay for an item with a gift card, you’re about to get ripped off, according to the FTC. This is the preferred method of payment for scammers because it is like paying cash. It is almost impossible to get your money back.

Find a physical address

“Legitimate online stores should provide you with a physical address and a work phone number in the contact section,” says the Better Business Bureau.

If you must find a way to contact the retailer, this is a red flag you should not ignore. Return and shipping policies should be clear and easy to understand, according to the BBB.

The crooks have become so smart that it is often difficult to determine what is fake and what is real. They will also read the news and play on your fears about inflation, delivery delays, and stockouts of some hot items.

Suppose any vacation offer you receive via text or email is fraudulent. Don’t click anything. Unless you’re up for some detective work, hang out with well-known retailers.

Your best defense is to be super paranoid about everything to make sure that the season of giving doesn’t turn into a season of taking you.


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