4 Smart Strategies for Secure Holiday Shopping

13 November 2015

Last November and December, Canadians spent more than $85 billion as they geared up for the holiday gift-giving season, according to Statistics Canada. This year promises to be no different, with countless consumers scrambling to check shopping off of their to-do lists before the holidays hit. In turn, every winter, the surge in transactions ushers in more opportunities for consumers to fall victim to identity theft.

Analytics leader, SAS, reports that while online retail has grown in recent years, 82 percent of Canadians surveyed plan to shop in-store this holiday season—making secure shopping a major priority for consumers.

Holiday shopping is stressful enough without worrying about credit fraud or identity theft. Here are some tips we've put together so you can make the most of your shopping trip and stay safe:

Choose paper over plastic

While your choice of shopping bag won’t help protect your identity, opting to pay with cash instead of your credit card could. Paying with cash keeps you from having to enter your PIN over and over, reducing the likelihood someone could steal it by peeking over your shoulder. In addition, by using cash you avoid ever transmitting your financial data through the retailer, which could eventually become a target for a data hack. While cash is slightly less convenient than swiping away with a single credit card, making just one stop at the bank or ATM before your shopping trip could end up saving you from the massive inconvenience of credit credit fraud.

Do not give out identifying information

Many retailers will ask for your zip code or email address at the point-of-sale. Most people give this information away without giving it a second thought, but what they don't realize is that retailers do not require this information to finish the transaction. When you shop online, you have to provide the billing address for your credit card as a measure against credit fraud, but when paying in person, personal information such as a zip code isn't needed. Most retailers actually use this information to work backwards to cobble together addresses for marketing purposes. During your next purchase, simply ask the cashier what they need that information for and decide for yourself whether you want to give it out, most stores will allow you to refuse giving out your information.

Stay vigilant when shopping online

Using the internet to browse for deals and make purchases can help you avoid the lines and chaos of malls during the holiday shopping season, making it much easier to buy from a multitude of retailers rather than doing all of your shopping in one place. However, with every new ecommerce site you buy from, your financial information is duplicated and stored in yet another database, becoming even more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. If you do shop online, try to limit yourself to making purchases from only a few, trusted retailers. When the time comes to logging in and click “buy,” make sure you do so from a private network, never from an unsecured public hotspot.

Keep your receipt

Almost all transactions end with the same familiar question: “Would you like your receipt?” It’s easy to dismiss the question as you hurry out of the store, especially when laden with shopping bags and pressured by the impatient and ever-growing line behind you. However, receipts contain a summary of the transaction, which can include your name and other partial information useful to identity thieves. Accepting them allows you greater control of where this information ends up. You can take the receipts home to be thrown away or shredded and keep bits of potentially useful information from falling into the hands of identity thieves.

In case your personal information is compromised this holiday season, signing up for a credit monitoring service can help you stay aware of certain activity on your credit files that may indicate fraud. Contact us today to learn more about how to keep your personal information safe during the holidays.