Guide: Holiday shopping tips to protect your identity and money
The holiday season is riddled with potential scams and issues that can affect your wallet.
Whether you finished your shopping list, or still have to shop - the tips below from the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will help protect your identity and money:
1. ONLINE SHOPPING
Only shop on secure websites. Use familiar websites, or research and read reviews of new ones, and check that the website starts with https (not just http - the “s” stands for secure) or has a padlock icon. Avoid typing your personal information when using unsecured Wi-Fi. Also, don’t click on shopping links included in unsolicited emails or social media sites - type the address directly into your browser.
On Guard Online has more information on how to be safe, secure, and responsible online.
2. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR ACCOUNTS
Some employees have used handheld machines illegally to swipe card information and use it later to hack into accounts. Increasingly, scammers are targeting retailers and e-skimming consumer credit card information. Monitor your credit card charges and bank balance for any suspicious charges.
3. UNDERSTAND FINANCING
Whether you’re giving a monthly subscription service or booking a vacation, read the fine print before you sign an agreement, or set up a recurring charge to your credit card. Some financing options are actually “leases” where you rent merchandise rather than buy it.
Financing can allow you to purchase gifts during the holidays and spread out payments. But make sure you understand all the terms and how it may increase the total cost of your purchase.
Click here for a list of retailers that accept buy now, pay later services.
The Real Deal: Buy now, pay later options and how to navigate big purchases
4. GIFT CARDS
The value of a gift card is valid for at least five years from when the card was purchased or money was last loaded onto it.
Visit the Federal Reserve website for the latest information on gift card rules.
Be careful of websites or social media sites that offer free or discounted gift cards. These sites often ask you for personal information or to pay for a gift card that has no balance. Inspect a gift card for any signs of tampering before purchasing it and keep your receipt. If you’re giving a gift card virtually, research the website and company to make sure they are legitimate.
Click here for the five top gift card scams.
5. RESEARCH PRODUCTS AND SALES
Research products and sales before shopping. Use websites, smartphone apps, and social media to research products, compare prices, and find sales and discounts before you start shopping. Many retailers will offer different sales throughout the holiday shopping season. Avoid entering your personal information to get a coupon as some scammers use the promise of discounts to steal your information.
6. CHECK FOR RECALLS
To check if a gift or toy has been recalled, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and click on the recall section.
7. CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAMS
Scammers may post ads online that promise big payouts if you invest in their cryptocurrency, only to find that you cannot withdraw the money you’ve invested. Or they may offer easy-to-use software to help you mine for cryptocurrency, only to find it steals your money or personal information instead. Research before you invest. Avoid sites that "guarantee profits," including ones with celebrity endorsements, which can be easily faked.
8. CHARITY SCAMS
The holidays are an important time to give to those in need, but many people will take advantage of this. Watch for spoofed or fake phone numbers that look real, copycat organization names, sweepstake promises. If you are planning to make a donation, make sure to research the organization carefully. Here are more tips on how to donate safely.