Tips for Shopping Online Safely This Holiday Season

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The holidays are upon us and the holiday shopping season is about to start in earnest, but the holidays, and by extension holiday shopping, look a little different this year. Online shopping was always an acceptable option before the current COVID-19 pandemic, but online shopping is now the recommendation or suggestion for holiday shopping instead of going to stores in person. With the pandemic showing no signs of ending, this is the perfect year to jump into online shopping, but there are some guidelines you should know beforehand. Here are some tips that will keep you safe without missing out on the best content while shopping online this holiday season.

Protection Baseline

Whether you are shopping online, watching videos online, or playing games online, you should have a baseline of protection from an antivirus software package. The best antivirus for you depends on your needs, but there is no shortage of options that will keep you safe online, and most include download scans as well. These antivirus programs run in the background and alert you if they detect something. Most computers come with basic virus protection and firewalls, but it is good practice to have additional software running to keep you safe, especially as scam attempts ramp up going into the holidays. Standard consumer antivirus software averages less than $100 a year, and it is well worth the peace of mind.

Shipping Best Practices

Shipping Best PracticesEven if you are safe online and order exactly what you want, shipping can throw an unexpected wrench in your plans. Thankfully, most online retailers use shipping tracking APIs to help ensure your order arrives in the right place on time, but even those systems are not perfect. Double-check your address before you confirm your order and if you are unlucky enough to have a problematic address, check your official address with your lease, property deed, or government mail service. Sometimes the building or street says something different than what mail carriers see in their instructions. Some websites will offer suggested addresses that the system sees as more acceptable; you should typically accept the suggested address as it is easier for that seller's system to understand.

Once you place your order, try to make your delivery area more secure, as porch pirates are another element to contend with this time of year. If you have a locked mailbox that fits packages or a building office that takes in packages for you to collect later, you are all set, but porch or doorstep deliveries can be riskier. If you don't have a secure place for a carrier to stash packages, consider adding a large bin outside your door that at least hides the obvious delivery boxes but doesn't 100% solve the thievery problem. The most surefire way to keep doorstep packers from being stolen is to bring them inside right after they are delivered. Thankfully, orders from major retailers often include tracking numbers that let you set up alerts. If you miss the delivery door knock, your tracking alerts should let you know when your package has been delivered so you can quickly bring it inside.

Shop In Private

Shop In PrivateEveryone loves free or public wifi when they are out running errands or waiting for an appointment, but you should not do your shopping on public wifi. Despite the convenience and lack of a bill, public wifi comes with some risks. Do not shop online over a public network as you never know who is watching and what data the network is scraping as you go about your business. Only trust your payment and contact information to a private network with a password only you and trusted people know, like your home wifi connection. It might sound like overkill, but it is better to be safe than sorry when Internet scammers and other neigh-doers increase their efforts every holiday season like clockwork.

Too Good to Be True Usually Is

One of the benefits of in-person shopping is that trap deals are rarer and easier to spot, but it can be much harder to determine which online deals are too good to be true. If a deal is too good to be true, it usually is and is not worth the risk. Use common sense and gut feeling to sense when the sale you are considering is not sitting right. Stick to trusted websites and retailers unless you know how to discern a scam from an honest independent seller.

Holiday season shopping looks a little different this year, but with these tips and tricks, you can stay safe while shopping online. Start with a baseline of antivirus software to keep your whole computer safe online, use shipping best practices to reduce errors or thefts, only shop on a private network, and avoid deals that look too good to be true.

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