Last year, Black Friday sales skyrocketed to $59.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Additionally, ComScore, an online business analytics provider, reported that online spending on Black Friday in 2012 reached $1.4 billion, representing the heaviest online spending day in history. Amid the chaos and excitement of holiday spending, financial safety and common sense can be overlooked.
“During a busy holiday shopping spree, it can be easy to forget about financial safety,” said Kevin Sellers, executive vice president of First Fidelity Bank in Phoenix. “In the chaotic atmosphere holiday shopping can create, shoppers often forget basic safety tips and may experience fraud or theft.”
First Fidelity Bank is offering the following tips for shoppers to keep their finances safe while shopping in store and online during this holiday season.
Keep track of your receipts. This tip may sound obvious but it can pay off in the long run. At the end of your shopping, compare your receipts to your online account transactions or your remaining cash. If you see a transaction on your bank statement that is not reflected in your receipts, contact the retailer when applicable or alert your bank to report fraudulent activity. Occasionally, retailers mistakenly apply a charge in error or double-charge an item. Additionally, Black Friday shopping is a prime time for online scams.
Be aware of your surroundings. In any busy environment, it’s important to be fully aware of the activity surrounding you. With the hordes of people crowding and pushing on Black Friday, the environment can be ideal for someone looking to steal your belongings. Be sure to keep your purse zipped at all times or keep your wallet securely in your pocket. Do not leave personal belongings like phones and keys lying around, even while you check out. If you have a smartphone, use a screen lock to protect personal data should someone get hold of your phone.
Shop with a credit card on Cyber Monday. A major benefit to using a credit or debit card is its anti-fraud security. If your card information is stolen, your liability is limited by federal law. Be sure you are keeping track of where you use credit and debit cards online so you can be fully aware of fraudulent charges should they appear on your statement.
Purchase from secure sites. Two signs to indicate whether or not you are making purchases on a secure site are the “HTTPS” before a URL and a padlock on the address bar when you get to the payment steps. Both indicators ensure the most secure purchasing process. Do your research and only shop on sites that you know and trust. If it seems like a scam, it probably is.
Make sure your security software is up to date. By simply updating your anti-virus software, risky shopping websites can be easily avoided. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals come in through email, so do the scams. Never click on an email that seems suspicious or too good to be true. The easiest way to catch a virus is by clicking on a bad link. Anti-virus software can also help detect and shut down viruses that come in via email.