Security

Stress-Free Holiday Shopping

two women walking in Portland with dog and holiday shopping bags

(3 Minute Read) — Recent news about shipping delays, product shortages, and retail staffing challenges have many of us starting our holiday shopping a little earlier than usual. In fact, a recent KPMG survey found 61% of Americans planned to start their holiday shopping in October. That’s up 10% over last year.

Donna Hoffman, professor of marketing at the George Washington School of Business in Washington, D.C., recently weighed in on the early holiday shopping season for the Tampa Bay Times.

“People are definitely going to be interested in Black Friday and excited about it, but the bulk of the activity is going to be online,” explained Hoffman. “That’s my prediction.”

We always encourage you to support local businesses, but they may run into some supply chain issues as well. Products that are locally sourced and locally made are more likely to be easily accessible this holiday season.

So, whether you plan to #SpendLocal this holiday season or enjoy the convenience of shopping online, here are a few tips to make checking out a breeze.

1. Stick with what you know. When shopping online, stick to store sites you know and trust. When you’re ready to buy, be sure the web address begins with “https” and that it has a small “lock icon” that confirms it is a secure site. You can set up account alerts to stay informed about your purchases.

2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You may see an ad on social media from a company you’ve never heard of, offering an amazing deal. Before you click the link, do a quick search online to verify the company and read reviews. Learn more about social media ad scams from the Better Business Bureau.

3. Use guest check-out. Checking out as a guest limits the information you need to share with a store. Avoid storing card numbers at a store site or on your browser to keep your information private.

4. Track your transactions. Whether you’re shopping online or in-person, make sure you’re the only one doing the spending. Watch your transaction history and make sure the amounts charged match your receipts. You can conveniently access your accounts 24/7 with the Unitus mobile app or on your computer.

5. Count on us. If something goes wrong this holiday season, know we’ll be there for you. Contact us right away if you think you’re a fraud victim and we’ll be there every step of the way to protect you and your finances. Learn more about common online holiday scams and how to avoid them on our security page.

Related Article: Make In-Person Secure Digital Payments with Your Smartphone

While we’re talking about online shopping, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) has some helpful information to help protect you from scammers.

  • Look for a physical address and phone number. If you have questions or problems, you’ll have a way to contact the company.
  • Familiarize yourself with the shipping and return policies. Who pays for return shipping? How many days do you have to return an item? Is there a restocking fee? Can sale items be returned?
  • Pay with a credit card. Paying by credit card offers recourse for overbilling, merchandise not received or returned items. You can file a dispute with the card issuer if there are problems. Also, do not purchase anything from online sellers that only accept payment by gift cards, money transfers or cryptocurrency. These types of payments are nearly impossible to trace and reverse.
  • Read the site’s privacy policy. You should be able to find the personal information the site is collecting, why and how it will be used. If a privacy policy is unavailable, hard to understand or disagreeable, consider using a different site.

One more piece of advice from ACFE:

“While you may know the red flags of fraud while shopping online or passing a charity basket at the grocery store, your family and friends may not. Reminders about good social media hygiene — such as not responding to viral posts that innocuously ask about things like birthdays, addresses, pets and children — go a long way in keeping loved ones aware and safe.”

Now that you have a little more peace of mind, we hope you can celebrate the season stress-free. And if you’re planning to #SpendLocal this year, be sure to check out our Instagram feed for some local business recommendations and gift ideas!


About the author: DJ Jones

DJ joined the Unitus Community Credit Union family in May 2018 to lead the Fraud & Security Department.

She brings over twenty-five years’ experience in investigations with a background that encompasses data breach remediation, identity theft restoration, insurance and legal investigations and financial services.

Originally from Alabama (Roll Tide!), Portland has been her home for 20 years. She and her wife are self-described foodies that love to travel and explore.

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