Fifth Third Bank

Shopping Safely Online and at the Mall

As the 2012 holiday season approaches and you prepare to spend time with family and friends, shopping, both online and at the mall, is likely to be on your "to do" list. To keep your shopping experience fun and safe, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Shopping Online

  • Shop only at Internet merchants you know and trust, and refrain from clicking on ads and banners. If in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau (http://www.us.bbb.org/).
  • Never share your Internet passwords with anyone. Use different passwords for different Web sites.
  • Do not provide your social security number, birth date or mother's maiden name in an email or within a Web site. When an email asks for this kind of information, this is a sure sign that the sender is up to no good.
  • Install the latest anti-virus software, anti-spyware and firewalls on your computer before shopping online. And keep them up-to-date with the latest patches. (Note: Buy them from a reputable software security vendor, not from an unknown security company; otherwise you may get infected with the malware you're trying to prevent!)
  • Practice safe behavior when it comes to your email. If it looks suspicious, or comes from an unknown person, don't open it. Even opening what you think is an email from a friend or relative could unleash a virus or a Trojan onto your computer.
  • Make sure the company is using a secure connection by noting whether the Web address starts with "https." Check for a padlock icon at the bottom of the browser. Click on the icon and you should see the site address. This address should match the Web site address at the top of the page. If they don't match, you may be at a fraudulent Web site.
  • During the holiday season (and year round) check your credit card and bank account transactions online. Don't wait for the bill to come in the mail. A little bit of monitoring can stop unapproved use of your credit cards or criminals dipping into your bank accounts. It's also a wise thing to check your credit reports on a regular basis for incorrect information that may be a sign of identity thieves at work.
  • Keep printouts of the Web page describing the item you ordered and the price you're paying, any e-mail messages, and the page that shows the seller's name, address and telephone number.
  • Never buy anything, no matter how good the advertised price is, from an unsolicited email (spam). When tempted to buy that replica watch because that's exactly what your friend wants, just imagine that same item being sold from a cardboard box out of the car trunk by an unsavory looking individual. Also remember, buying from a spammer could cost much more than the price of that cool replica watch – giving your credit card information to unknown entities over the web may place your identity in jeopardy.
  • Finally, when you're done shopping, if you are finished using your computer, turn it off. With the proliferation of broadband Internet access, many users now leave their computers on 'round the clock.' This opens up the door for criminals who, once they've infected your computer, will turn it into their "robot" and commit cyber crime.

Shopping at the Mall

  • Shop with confidence and purpose. Thieves will look for shoppers who are distracted, fumbling with packages, appear disoriented, and are fatigued.
  • Don't overdo it. Only purchase what you can carry comfortably. It is easy to lose track of your purchases if you are carrying too much.
  • Don't carry or display large amounts of cash, and keep an eye on your credit cards at all times. Never leave your credit card on a store counter.
  • Don't shop alone. Whenever possible, especially at night, shop with friends or family members. There is safety in numbers.
  • Park in well lit, busy parking lots. Avoid parking in isolated areas, and have your keys out and ready to use to open your car. Make sure packages and other valuables are kept out of sight in your vehicle and that your vehicle is locked.
  • Be aware of who is around you if you have to use the ATM during your shopping trip. Use ATMs inside banks and in other busy areas, as they are less likely to be tampered with, and always guard your PIN when entering it.
  • Keep your children close. If you are shopping with small children, always keep them close to you. Also, realize that children can be a distraction while you are shopping, so be sure to keep an eye on them and your packages.

Shopping during the busy holiday season and throughout the year should be a fun, positive, and safe experience. Using common sense and being aware will help you stay safe and have fun while shopping at the mall or online. Here's to happy and safe shopping during the holidays and throughout the year!

Sources:

  • 10 Tips to Prevent Season's Thievings by Linda McGlasson, Managing Editor of bankinfosecurity.com
  • Seven Tips for Safe Mall Holiday Shopping by A. Hermitt of Associated Content
  • Tips to Safe Shopping New York NY by Lawrence F. Loesch of AlliedBarton Security Services