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Stay Safe While Holiday Shopping: 7 Essential Tips to Avoid Scams

5 minute read time


Avoid prevalent phishing scams by following these shopping safety tips for the holidays. In this article, you'll also find our recommendations for keeping your long-term financial goals top of mind during the spending season.

Holiday shopping is back and stronger than ever. According to Deloitte's 2023 Holiday Retail Survey, spending is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time.  And to no surprise, many consumers are continuing to prioritize online shopping, according to McKinsey and Company, with over a quarter of consumers indicating they'll be shopping online more this season compared to last year.

While shopping online has many benefits, like easy price comparison and free delivery options, it can put you at higher risk for fraud. Here are a few recommendations that'll keep you safe and secure while continuing to focus on your long-term financial goals:

Recognize and avoid phishing scams

A phishing scam is designed to trick victims into sharing confidential information with a seemingly trusted source. Typically, phishing scams will prompt victims to click a fraudulent link or hand personal information to someone impersonating a legitimate organization. Visit our Security Tips page for more information on ways to protect your information from scammers.

Watch out for common holiday scams

Many cybercriminals create phishing emails or texts that prompt you to click on a link or call for updates, tracking or adding delivery instructions for a package you ordered online. Clicking on these links may infect your phone or computer with malware that enables scammers to capture passwords and take control of your device. Another common phishing tactic is a scammer appearing to be a "friend" or "family member" who needs help ordering a gift card and asks you to buy it for them. If you find yourself in a similar position, contact the person or sender with their correct contact information.

Know your merchants

Verify the reputation of the company or seller. A reputable seller will include information such as a mailing address, phone number and detailed item description in an easy-to-find location. Fraudulent sites may offer lower prices to draw in consumers. Scammers have also used this tactic by creating fake social media ads that feature out-of-stock items and list them as "available for a limited time" or "at a low price." If something appears too good to be true, it probably is.

Look for ‘https’

The “s” in “https” in a website’s URL stands for secure and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. Check that the website has security features that'll encrypt your information as it’s being transferred to the seller’s database. You may see a small padlock appear on your browser indicating the transaction is secure.

Update your devices

Keep the operating system and application software secure by updating or patching all your computers and mobile devices. Check to see that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates.

Use strong passwords

You should pick a longer phrase for your password. It should contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols like ? or ! - for example: 'Mycat$uejoinedourfamilyin2021'. Make sure each password is different for every site.

Avoid public Wi-Fi

Always use a secure network to shop, and that includes in your home. If you don’t have a password-protected network for your home, get one. 

Shop with a credit card

Using a credit card adds an extra layer of protection when you're holiday shopping. Credit cards are an extension of credit, so they aren't directly linked to your bank account like a debit card. This will keep cybercriminals away from your hard-earned cash.

Stay focused on your long-term financial goals

While holiday shopping is expected to double projected spending averages, don't forget about your financial goals that go beyond December. Gallup's spending report is projecting an estimated spending of $975 per person this season, which is about $100 more than in 2022. And according to Deloitte's retail survey, many consumers are less confident with staying within their budget, with 57% confident compared to 63% in 2022. If you're worried about overspending, here are a few ideas to keep your holiday spending in check:

Make a budget

It’s important to keep long-term financial goals on track during periods of increased spending like the holidays. While you might have a budget for your overall finances, consider creating a budget for your specific holiday shopping needs, too. Determine what you want to spend in advance of shopping for each friend and family member to avoid impulse purchases.

Get creative

Creative gift giving can be a smart way to save money during the holidays. Consider less expensive but meaningful gifts like a family heirloom or homemade gift. If you’re not the crafty type, think of a service or experience gift that your loved one will appreciate. Does your family member or friend have an interest in a community cause or charity? Many charities have specific holiday initiatives to help those in need.

Track your spending

There are many tools available to help you stay on track with your holiday budget. If you use MyJFG online and mobile banking, you can also set up alerts on your mobile device to efficiently track money coming in and out of your accounts and monitor for potential fraudulent activity.

Prioritize saving

Consider setting up a separate savings account to jumpstart your funds for next year. Utilizing a separate savings accounts can help you avoid temptations to spend this money prematurely.

Shop early

It may be tempting to leave holiday shopping to the last minute. Not only can this result in increased stress, but procrastination can lead to paying higher prices, including extra shipping costs to ensure gifts arrive on time. When you shop early, you can take more time to make thoughtful decisions to fit within your budget.

Additional Resources

  • Contactless payments — Learn how mobile payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Click to Pay options can make you shopping more secure and convenient.