Holiday Shopping Safety Tips for Black Friday and Throughout The 2014 Holiday Season

Thanksgiving week often marks the beginning of holiday shopping for many people. While Black Friday was traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, it seems that people are taking to the stores (both online and off) earlier every year. Why wait until the day after Thanksgiving, when merchants are offering great buys earlier? At Grabel & Associates, we have a few tips to help ensure your shopping adventures are safe, and hopefully enjoyable.

While you may be cheery and filled with the holiday spirit, would-be thieves are anxiously awaiting their chance to catch you off guard. When shopping in brick-and-mortar stores (offline), keep these tips in mind:

Shop in pairs; this makes you a more difficult target for thieves.

Try to take care of the majority of your shopping during daylight hours. Most thieves prefer to catch someone in the parking lot after dark.

Many non-profit organizations have people who ring bells and ask for donations, but be highly aware when anyone approaches you. Lots of con artists are slick and use a variety of tactics to trick – and rob – innocent victims.

Put your packages in your trunk, out of sight. A back seat packed full of shopping bags and boxes is just an invitation for burglars.

Leave the cash you don’t need at home. Bring only what you’ll need to make your purchases. In addition, leave any flashy or expensive looking jewelry at home. Thieves often target people who appear to have substantial financial resources.

If possible, leave your wallet or purse at home, and pay by credit card/check when you can.

Always pay close attention to your surroundings; being alert is the most important thing you can do to avoid becoming a victim.

Plan to shop online? You could be a victim as well. Below are a few safety tips for those who plan to do most of their shopping online this holiday season.

First of all, only shop at secure, trusted websites. Merchants who offer legitimate, safe shopping on the Internet will have a URL address in your browser that usually begins with https, instead of http. In addition, many secure websites show a padlock icon in your web browser. This simply means that all purchases made on the website are secure.

Unsecured networks put your information at risk. Many wi-fi hotspots are unsecured networks. If a password is not required to connect, do not give out any credit card, banking, or other personal information. Others who are on the network may be able to see your information.

Make sure your smartphone, tablet, or other device is “clean.” This simply means your security software, apps, operating system, etc. should be up-to-date.

Avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening questionable emails. Cyber criminals are smart; they use many tactics to gain access to shoppers’ information, so if anything at all looks suspicious, avoid it like the plague.

Keep a paper trail of your online purchases. Confirmation numbers, email correspondence with vendors, online receipts, credit card statements – all of these things can help if you are taken advantage of by a cyber criminal. Carefully review credit card and bank statements so that if anything is suspect, you can contact the company/bank immediately.

Holiday shopping can be fun and safe, but it’s important to be on your toes at all times, whether you shop online or off. The staff at Grabel & Associates wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving and safe holiday shopping season!

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