When shopping online for the holidays, try to use a credit card instead of your debit card. Credit frequently has more safeguards in place than debit. Also check your statements a little more frequently than usual. It’s high season for Santa, but also for scams.
Finally, shop on a secure connection. Free wireless at the coffee shop is great for checking your email but not for ordering Aunt June a new toaster. Also, before you enter your financial information on a website, ensure the site itself is secure. You can do that by checking that the URL address begins with “https” and not just “http” or there’s a lock icon in your browser’s search bar, signifying that it’s encrypted.
The same rules hold true when shopping on your smartphone, which is becoming more and more common. Secure site, secure connection, verified merchants. In addition, you simply MUST, MUST, MUST have a security lock on your phone. If you don’t and your phone is lost, you may as well just give someone the keys to your house.
A lot of precautions to take!
Being a little extra careful can save you from the immeasurable hassle of identity theft. And don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of online shopping. There are tons of great deals. Plus it’s convenient and free shipping is often an included perk. Also, it keeps you on point because you’re less likely to fall prey to those expensive, strategically placed impulse buys that catch your eye in the store. Online shopping is great. I just urge everyone to think before you click and remember, if it looks too good be true, that’s probably because it is.
Mellody is President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts. Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.