Times are tough and budgets are tight so when it comes to holiday shopping, everyone’s looking for a deal. However, if your quest for the ultimate savings threatens your safety, whether in the real world or online, you’ve lost sight of your priorities. Waking up at three in the morning to score a great Black Friday discount or finding a website offering a CD box set at 90% off both sound like great ways to hold onto some of your hard-earned cash, but if your personal safety or sensitive information are compromised, at the end of the day you’re going to pay a lot more than you would have saved. Here’s how to prevent that from happening.
1. Don’t Shop Alone At Night
You’re sure to find a great many enticing in-store offers on Black Friday. Just don’t make the mistake of visiting these stores alone in the dead of night. That walk into and out of the store is scary, and criminals do pay attention to these sorts of sales. If you can’t find someone willing to accompany you on your quest to score a deal, you might want to rethink the idea. Nothing is more important than your physical safety.
2. Only Carry the Credit Cards You’re Going to Use
Decide which credit cards you’re going to use on any particular shopping trip and take only those with you. You don’t want to be in a position to have to contact multiple credit card companies and notify them that your cards have been stolen, especially this time of year when you’re going to need them on a regular basis.
3. Never Bring Your Checkbook
If you intend to pay for something by check, do not take your entire checkbook with you. This is one of the easier ways criminals can steal your identity. Instead, take one check – or multiple checks if you’re visiting more than one store – and write the name of the payee on it before you leave home. Fill in the amount of the check in-store and sign it as your transaction is being processed.
4. Be Wary of Lesser-Known Websites
Just because you find an Internet deal for 50% off a flat-screen TV doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it. There are plenty of rogue websites out there which collect your credit card information after offering such deals. Once they have it, your item never arrives and you’re likely to be hit with fraudulent charges. Investigate any suspect online operation through the Better Business Bureau website and stay away from any online retailers with multiple customer complaints. You can also research businesses at the website Ripoff Report.
5. Always Carry Your Cell Phone
When you’re out shopping, be sure to always carry your cell phone with you. This can be invaluable should your car break down, and speaking on the phone can be an effective deterrent to any would-be criminals. It’s also helpful to be able to make a quick phone call to a loved one to say you’re on your way home. Be sure to password protect your phone and activate an anti-theft solution, however, in case it is lost or stolen.
6. Avoid Shopping on Public Wi-Fi Networks
Sipping on an espresso at Starbucks and doing your Internet shopping seems convenient, but you open yourself up to criminal activity by doing so. Public Wi-Fi networks are often less than secure than private ones, and you risk the possibility of logging onto a phantom network instead of the real one, opening you up to potential identity theft.
7. Exercise Good Car Safety
For all of your retail shopping, park in well-lit areas and store your purchases in the trunk of your car. Inspect the back seat before entering your car after any shopping trip, and if you notice anything untoward, dial 911 immediately. You can never be too sure.
In the midst of all of the madness associated with the holiday shopping season, it’s important to keep things in perspective. If you get a bad gut feeling about an online purchase because it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The same applies to a late-night shopping trip to a poorly lit area. We all want to save money when shopping this time of year, just make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk in order to do so.
What tips do you know of for safe holiday shopping?