5 Ways to Shop Safely This Holiday Season

5 Ways to Shop Safely This Holiday Season featured image

After two holiday seasons disrupted by the pandemic, this year looks to be “back to normal.” However, scammers and thieves never take time off from disrupting your holiday plans and expectations. Keep reading to refresh your knowledge of these 5 holiday shopping safety tips for 2022.

Fight Porch Piracy

With more and more of our holiday shopping happening online, it’s essential to make sure you actually receive the gifts you intend to give. Sadly, 49 million Americans have had at least one package stolen. How can you keep this from happening to you? There are a variety of ways to prevent porch piracy–utilize the ones that work best for you.

  • Opt in to delivery notification via text message or email. That way you can grab the package as soon as it’s delivered.
  • If you’re away from home during the day, have packages delivered to your job or a neighbor’s house instead.
  • Keep your front steps or porch well-lit so that would-be thieves don’t have the cover of darkness to their advantage.
  • Install a security camera or a smart doorbell with video.
  • Require a signature on your deliveries
  • If using Amazon, choose to pick up from an Amazon Locker
  • Use retailers’ store or curbside pickup option instead of having your order delivered.

If you do have a package stolen, report it to the relevant retailer or shipping company such as Amazon, USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

Don’t Fall For Holiday Scams

When it comes to shopping online, porch pirates aren’t the only threat to look out for. You should also beware of non-delivery and non-payment scams. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2021 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost Americans more than $337 million. Here’s how to spot and avoid these holiday scams:

1. Be careful about payments.

Asking for payment via wire transfer or prepaid gift card is a huge red flag. Don’t wire money to anyone you don’t know, and don’t pay for online orders with pre-paid cards. Some scammers will ask you to send pay with a pre-paid card and provide them with the PIN number, which they will use to take the funds and never send you anything in return.

It’s best to use only one payment method, such as a dedicated credit card, for your holiday shopping. That way, if it happens to be compromised while you’re shopping, you only have to deal with restoring one account, instead of many.

2. Confirm who you are buying from.

The Internet is like the Wild Wild West. For all the valid online retailers out there, there are also scammers setting up fake websites. Don’t get tricked into buying from a scam or imposter website. Look for these factors:

  • Only do your online shopping on sites that begin with “https://” and have a padlock symbol before the beginning of the URL.
  • Pay attention to feedback and ratings for online sellers so you know that others have had a good experience with the seller and that they are legitimate.
  • Look for a “Contact” page that displays a physical street address and phone number, not just an email.
  • Avoid dealing with overseas-based companies if you can, as these are more difficult to verify.

3. Don’t fall for phishing scams.

Phishing scams play out year round, but you need to be especially vigilant during the holidays when everyone is busier and scammers tend to ramp up their attacks.

  • Don’t click on suspicious links in emails, texts, or on websites.
  • Never respond to unprompted communications asking you to change a password or divulge account information.
  • If you are contacted about a supposedly urgent issue regarding a payment account or shipment, don’t reply directly. Instead, visit the website of the entity that’s claiming to contact you, and go through the process displayed on the site to ensure that any “urgent” problems are legitimate.
  • Failure to go through this process could open your personal information up to an unscrupulous scammer.

Avoid Holiday Shopping Stress

The “holiday blues” are a real problem that affects millions of Americans every year. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of Americans report heightened stress and anxiety during the holiday period. This figure goes up to 64% for people who already have mental health conditions.

Holiday shopping itself is a stressor, as you have to cope with crowds, repetitive music, scarcity of goods, traffic, and so on. Even if you do all your shopping online, the sheer expense of the holidays can be stressful. And now that “Black Friday” seems to start in October, it can feel overwhelming to wonder if you are getting the best deal or need to add “just one more” purchase.

While there may well be some good deals available during Black Friday sales, pay attention to you how you’re feeling before subjecting yourself to the associated stress. For example, is it really worth your mental health to spend hours in line or dealing with aggressive customers?

When you do go out shopping, be mindful of your surroundings and your personal possessions. Keep your purse and wallet close to your person and don’t take out cash or cards until you’re at a register and asked to pay. When possible, stay away from dense crowds and  don’t argue over items with other shoppers. If you’re shopping with children, make sure to keep a close eye on them, and keep them nearby at all times. There are a lot of distractions for children this time of year especially.

Your Vehicle and Holiday Safety

A vehicular incident is one of the fastest ways to ruin your holiday season. Accidents, break-ins, and breakdowns are all things you will want to avoid. Follow these tips to stay safe on the road and in parking lots during the holidays:

When shopping:

  • Keep your holiday gifts in your trunk, out of sight.
  • Keep valuables out of sight generally.
  • Be very careful in busy and crowded parking lots.
  • Park in well-lit areas; again, thieves take advantage of darker conditions and shorter days.

When traveling to and from shopping outlets:

  • Deer are often on the move during the holiday season in certain states, so be on the lookout.
  • Make sure you have snow tires, snow chains, de-icing equipment, snow scrapers, and so-on.
  • Always remove snow from your vehicle before hitting the road; in some states, it is illegal to not completely remove snow before traveling.z

Shop Safely, Shop Local in Bucks County!

One way to have a safe and enjoyable holiday shopping experience is to stay local. Bucks County is home to many wonderful shops and businesses where you can purchase gifts and gift certificates for friends, family, teachers, co-workers, and whoever else is on your list. Since the pandemic, many local shops offer the same conveniences as bigger retailers such as online shopping and in-store or curbside pickup. So, don’t forget to visit your local main street this holiday season. Questions about your FNBN account? Give us a call at 215.860.9100 or visit your nearest branch location in Bucks County. You can also contact us online.

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