The holiday shopping season officially gets underway the Friday after Thanksgiving, when Black Friday deals begin, and typically extends through Cyber Monday. So look out, holiday shoppers, a rambunctious stretch lies ahead for you!

When you are shopping for the perfect gifts, remember, you need to be extra careful and safeguard yourself against scammers who are also actively on the hunt. So before you purchase those gifts, it is important to be aware of some simple steps you can take to protect highly personal data like credit card numbers and friends and family’s information. 

Learn some simple steps to help you ensure that you safely and securely get those great deals online. 

Fake Online Stores

Cyber criminals create fake online stores that mimic the look of real sites or that use the names of well-known stores or brands. When you search for the best online deals, you may find yourself at one of these fake sites. By purchasing from such websites, you can end up with counterfeit or stolen items, and in some cases, your purchases might never be delivered. Take the following steps to protect yourself from fake online stores:

  • When possible, purchase from the online stores you already know, trust and have done business with previously. Bookmark online stores you have visited before and trust.
  • If the online deal sounds too good to be true, it may be fake.
  • Be suspicious if the website resembles the one you’ve used in the past, but the web address or the name of the store is slightly different. For example, you may be used to shopping at Amazon, whose website address is, but end up shopping at a fake website that has a similar website address, where the letter “o” is replaced with the number “0”.
  • Type the name of the online store or its web address into a search engine to see what others have said about it. Look for terms like “fraud,” “scam,” “never again” and “fake.”

Scammers on Legitimate Websites

  • Keep your guard up even when shopping on trusted websites. Large online stores often offer products sold by different individuals or companies that might have fraudulent intentions. 
  • Check each seller’s reputation before placing the order. Be wary of sellers who are new to the online store or who sell items at unusually low prices. 
  • Review the online store’s policy on purchases from third parties. If unsure, purchase items sold directly by the online store.

Online Payments for Purchases

  • Regularly review your credit card statements to identify suspicious charges. If possible, enable the option to notify you by email, text, or app every time a charge is made to your credit card. If you find any suspicious activity, call your credit card company right away and report it.
  • AVOID using debit cards whenever possible. Debit cards take money directly from your bank account; if fraud has been committed, it will be harder to get your money back. Another option is using well-known payment services such as PayPal for online purchases, which does not require you to disclose your credit card number to the vendor. Or, consider using a gift card for online purchases.

Top Cyber Safe Shopping Tips

  1. Lock down your login: One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to protect your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords alone are not enough to protect accounts such as banking, email and social media.
  2. When in doubt, just throw it out: When everyone is busy and preoccupied with friends, festivities and holiday excitement, links in emails, posts and texts are often how cyber criminals try to steal your information or infect your devices. If you do not recognize the sender of the message you receive, delete the message. 
  3. Use a VPN: When holiday shopping, avoid using free internet access. Always try to use protected internet access. This will allow an encrypted connection that hides your IP address and keeps holiday predators from seeing any personal data about you. Your login credentials, your banking details and your identity stay protected. 
  4. Be aware of phishing scams: Look at every holiday-themed and savings-themed email in your inbox with a suspicious eye, never click on links inside them.
  5. Practice safe web surfing: Check for the “green lock” or padlock icon in your browser bar—this signifies a secure connection. 
  6. Do NOT store payment info: You will get requests from sites to start new accounts and save your credit card information. You should deny these requests, particularly during the holiday shopping season. You want to share, save and store as little personal information as possible on the internet.