(BPT) – The season for scouring stores and websites for the best deals is upon us. While shoppers are busy trying to get the biggest bargain, fraudsters and scammers are also busy targeting consumers who have their guard down.
Holiday spending is expected to grow by more than 4.1 percent in the U.S. according to experts from Visa, and criminals are looking for their share of the billions of dollars that will be spent between now and the end of the holiday shopping season.
‘Fraudsters look to play the Grinch during holiday seasons and prey on distracted consumers,’ said Michael Jabbara, senior director, Global Risk, Visa. ‘Making smart choices and being vigilant while preparing to celebrate the holidays can make a world of difference.’
While fraudsters change their approach and scams each year, there are several simple steps consumers can take to protect themselves from fraud when making purchases during the holidays and throughout the year.
Keep your data safe
Shoppers can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a major data breach by making smart choices in how they are paying for purchases. Shoppers should use a payment card with a chip or contactless symbol on it to protect their payment card data from being stolen in case of a data breach, and chip-enabled checkout is proven to help reduce fraud by as much as 81%.
Check out securely online
Online shopping remains an excellent option for convenient purchases, with many consumers planning to do the majority of their holiday spending online.
To stay safe when checking out online, it is critical to always check the URL and make sure it begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ at the end confirms a secure connection.
Also, companies are adding ways to make it faster, easier and more importantly, safer to pay with a card. For example, Visa recently introduced a click to pay button for sites such as Cinemark, Movember, Rakuten, Saks Fifth Avenue, SHOP.com, BassPro, JoAnn Fabrics, Papa John’s, Staples and Tickets.com. This button not only speeds up the check-out process, but also adds an extra layer of protection.
Fraudsters are always trying new tactics and approaches to access information, and shoppers need to stay vigilant.
To stay safe, shoppers should make sure the device they are using, whether it’s a phone, tablet or laptop, has the latest software installed and the latest version of apps loaded to reduce the likelihood of a known vulnerability being present.
Shoppers also need to regularly update passwords with strong combinations that are unique to each account. Better yet, switch to biometrics if it’s an option. Using fingerprint or facial recognition for account login and/or payments when available makes it harder for fraudsters to gain unauthorized access to devices, apps and information, but easier and safer for shoppers.
Watch out for phishing scams
With online shopping continuing to be popular, phishing scams are out in full force to take advantage. Shoppers need to be careful of unsolicited and suspicious emails or phone calls. Also, they should be wary of ‘one day only’ deals or fake delivery tracking emails that direct them to unknown URLs used to steal information like username and password.
Prevent holiday fraud
It’s been said many times over that the best defense is a good offense, and that certainly holds true this holiday season. Shoppers need to proactively protect themselves from fraudsters by being vigilant and aware to make sure their data and information stays safe.
 ‘Holiday sales expected to rise 4.1 percent year-over-year,’ November 2019