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Stay Safe When Shopping Online

While we know that some of you had all your holiday shopping done months ago, many more of you may be waiting for those two highly-anticipated annual shopping events: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Still others of you will wait until the last minute and rely on same-day Amazon delivery to finish up your gift purchases.

No matter which category you fall into, online shopping has become so popular that many holiday shoppers never even leave their homes. It’s so nice to sit in our PJs and check find the perfect gifts while binge-watching The Crown. Plus, you have the added convenience of home delivery, and the ability to access the entire world of gift ideas without schlepping from store to store in bad weather. How cool is that?

Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a time then fraudsters and scam artists are targeting online shoppers, who may make easy prey if they aren’t careful. It’s extremely important to protect your finances as you shop online during this (and every) season! LifeLock offers some great tips on how to stay safe while online shopping.

Stick to Stores You Trust

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are full of tempting ads for unique gifts, especially this time of year.  Some of those ads are posted by legitimate stores, and some may be scam artists that are trying to separate your from your hard-earned money. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Stick to websites you trust. If you really MUST have that cool T-shirt you saw in an online ad, Google search the T-shirt instead of clicking the ad to find a reputable store to purchase it from.

Do Your Homework

Sometimes you may not be able to find the perfect gift at an online store that you trust. If you do want to use a store you’ve never used before, do your homework.  Look for online reviews through independent sources (don’t rely on the the reviews on the company website – these could be fake). Check with the BBB, Yelp, or other independent sources. Another way to find out if it’s a legit business is to Google the company address. If the address does not go to a real location, or if the address is for a location that does not match the business, then it may be a risky purchase.

Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi

You should follow this advice year-round, and not just during the holiday season!  Do not use public Wi-Fi to access personal information, bank accounts, or input your credit card information into websites. It’s actually pretty easy for hackers to access your personal info or intercept password and log-in info over public Wi-Fi.

Be Wary of Email Solicitations

Don’t click links in emails from unknown senders. Even if the email appears to be from a reputable source, it could send you to a cloned website operated by a fraudster. The links may look very similar to a legitimate website, but will have hard-to-notice variations, such as special characters or a alternate suffix (such as .biz instead of .com). The alterations to the URL could be so slight that you are tricked into clicking.  If you use the URL and input your payment info to make a purchase, you may be opening yourself up to fraud. Instead of clicking links in emails,  go to your browser and navigate directly to the trusted website and search for the advertised item.

Don’t Use Debit Cards Online

It can be tempting to avoid racking up credit card debt over the holidays by paying with debit cards, especially if you have the cash. This is fine for shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, but if you are shopping online, you should consider taking advantage of the fraud protection offered by your credit cards. If you should come under attack from a fraudster, your credit card company may offer zero liability protection, while your debit card may have dollar limits on how much you are protected. You can always immediately pay off the credit card purchase if you are concerned about ballooning your balance. This can also have a positive impact on your credit score.

Find more tips on the LifeLock website.

Enjoy your holiday shopping and stay financially safe! When it is time to sell or buy a home, having a local team you can rely on will make the process a smooth one. Call the Realtors® who love where they live and understand the local real estate market. ADMC Realty Group happily serves the communities in and around the Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas. From start to finish, we’re here to help with all your Real estate needs. Give us a call at (202)596-8101 or email us at [email protected].

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