Millions of Americans will hit the stores – and the Web sites – this holiday season to buy gifts. Economic woes and job uncertainty especially may make this season more stressful and can increase the potential for crime, theft and other fraud. Universal Protection Service (UPS) therefore offers the following tips for mall and online shoppers.
Shopping at Stores or Malls:
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
- Don't overburden yourself with packages.
- Take extra care with purses and wallets; carry your purse close to your body and your wallet in an inside pocket or zippered pocket.
- Never leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart, on a countertop or in your car.
- Don't carry large amounts of cash and minimize the number of debit or credit cards you carry.
- Park your car close to your destination and make sure packages are locked in the trunk, out of sight. If you are going to continue shopping, after placing items in the trunk, move your vehicle to another location in the parking lot.
- Try to shop during daylight hours and when shopping at night, park in a well-lit area.
- When returning to your car, have your keys out and keep alert. Lock your doors as soon as you are inside the vehicle.
- Shop with others when possible.
- If shopping with small children, make sure they know what to do if they become separated from you inside a store or mall.
- Report suspicious activity to store/mall security or law enforcement.
Online shopping is expected to exceed $75 billion in 2008, and the months leading up to Christmas account for more than one-third of all online shopping. According to UPS, fast-moving fraudsters aggressively seek to steal a bigger portion of that sales figure by targeting online shoppers directly, and the recent economic downturn has created an increased risk of vendor bankruptcies and delivery hurdles.
Online Shopping Tips:
- Shop with known businesses; research past performance and recent financial stability.
- Obtain a phone number, address and/or other alternate contact to resolve problems.
- Never provide your Social Security number or driver's license number online; this information in not needed to make a purchase.
- Conduct transactions on a secure server only; look for the pad-lock device on the browser's status bar. The URL should change from http to shttp or https when asked for payment information indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
- Make sure you understand all shipping charges, taxes and delivery dates.
- Have packages delivered to an address where they won't be left unattended.
- Understand return policies before you buy, verify limitation for time, shipping costs and other policies.
- Read the seller's product description closely. Name-brand items at greatly reduced prices could be counterfeit.
- Secure your computer with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and firewalls that are updated regularly.
- Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt and copies of any email you exchange with the seller.
- Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren't any unauthorized charges.