It has become harder and harder to distinguish between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, for the first time, Cyber Monday actually surpassed Black Friday in overall sales (probably due to Covid19). According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. shoppers spent $9 million on Black Friday and $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday.
The pressure to get the perfect gifts has increased this year. Like last year, the pandemic will play a major factor in holiday shopping, but this year in-store shopping is much more accessible. Add in the supply chain/shipping delay dilemma that makes many hot items scarcer and the pressure mounts. With the increased pressure can come a somewhat frantic carelessness that exposes our vulnerabilities.
Having those billions of dollars on the line this holiday shopping season, criminals know the season is rife with opportunities for them to scam and steal. We at BBB want you to have a safe, scam-free shopping experience.
First, let’s talk about traditional, in-person Black Friday shopping.
• Don’t flash your cash! Don’t let a shady character peer over your shoulder to get your account information. Wait until the cashier asks before taking out your credit card or checkbook.
• Avoid pickpockets by carrying your purse close to your body or putting your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
• Don’t buy more than you can carry. Have your keys ready when approaching your vehicle. Check the backseat and around the car before getting in. Lock your packages out of view, in the trunk, if possible.
• Study the ads, make out a shopping list, set a budget and stick to it. You’ll be less likely to overspend.
• Know the store’s return policies. Can items be returned, or a refund issued? Do you need a receipt? Ask the retailer so you won’t be disappointed later.
Next, let’s talk about shopping online, whether it’s on Cyber Monday or any other time.
• Shop only from a secure computer or mobile device. Install the latest, best antivirus software to protect your phone or computer. Any data transmitted from a device is at risk including credit card numbers, bank accounts and other personal information. Update to the latest software versions of your operating systems to further protect them.
• Shop using a secure connection. Always look for the HTTPS lock symbol in your browser’s address window when purchasing online.
• Search for deals on trusted vendors’ retail sites, not on search engines. This time of year, the number of bogus shopping sites explode. Check each website URL carefully. Scammers often clone well-known sites, using similar web addresses to those of legitimate sites.
• Never, ever click on a shopping link in an email you receive — For scammers, Cyber Monday is prime time! Hackers will send you a bogus email that looks legitimate.
• Don’t fall for “too good to be true” deals. Cyber criminals try to slip in a lot of fake deals. Like we always say, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
• Use only credit cards online. Debit cards have a direct route to your bank account.
• During the shopping season, carefully review your credit card and bank statements regularly in case fraudulent sales and charges have been made.
Stay safe this holiday shopping season by using the tips above.
For those of you who want to safely make charitable donations this holiday season, call our office to receive BBB’s 2021 Wise Giving Guide. We will be happy to mail it to you. And unlike most other things this time of year, it’s free!
Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.