The Seacoast BankNote

How to Shop Safely Online This Holiday Season

Reviewed by: Shane Rolland

For most of us, the convenience of online shopping is irresistible. Countless varieties, red-hot deals, and quick doorstep delivery mean the hours spent in crowded check-out lines are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the shift in consumer spending habits also means a rise in cybercrime.

Cybercriminals depend on distracted customers in search of the best deals to fall victim to their antics, and the statistics are alarming. A recent survey by Shred-it showed that 46% of Americans believe their security habits make them vulnerable to fraud. According to the same study, over 50% of those surveyed admitted to reusing passwords and PINs across multiple accounts – often sharing them with family and friends. These simple mistakes could turn costly by providing criminals easy access to your personal and financial information.


The keys to shopping safe online during the holidays is to educate yourself on common cyber threats and take action to protect yourself.

Lookout for phishing attempts

Phishing scams often come through as text messages or emails and look like they’re from a legitimate source – usually your bank or credit card company. Within the messages are malicious links taking you to a fraudulent login page where you’re asked to update your personal information. Once you do, the criminal has all they need to access your real accounts and do serious financial harm. Cybercriminals are sophisticated, so stay alert and educate yourself on the most common signs of phishing scams.

Set up bank account alerts

Bank account alerts are a great way of monitoring your holiday spending, but they can also protect you from cyber scams. You can receive notifications for reaching spending thresholds, external transfers, or login attempts using your online or mobile banking app. Remember, your spending habits will change during the holidays, so automatic alerts via text, email, or phone call will help you stay on top of any unauthorized activity. For the best protection, do not disregard any alerts that you receive.

Don’t share login credentials

Don't share your login credentials with friends and family members. It becomes harder to protect your personal information when numerous people use it.

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Use unique passwords

Instead of using the same password for multiple websites, use unique passwords that aren't easily guessed, especially for your bank accounts. Roughly 59% of Americans use their names and birthdates in their passwords, which criminals can source from social media. While it’s not uncommon to receive emails from legitimate sources asking you to update your password, there are common warning signs indicating it’s a scam. Look for spelling and grammar errors and vague introductions, such as “dear valued customer,” “sir” or “madame”, instead of your real name. Additionally, when you hover over the links with your mouse, look for URLs that do not match the source domain. Scam emails will reveal a series of numbers or a fake web address in the link.

Keep your devices up to date

Pay attention to software updates for your devices, as they often contain extra security features. Selecting automatic updates will ensure you always have the latest updates from the manufacturer. Additionally, check that your browser security settings are appropriate by reviewing plug-ins and removing ones you no longer use or don’t recognize. Select the option for your browser to ask permission before tracking your location and be sure to disable automatic downloads.

Know who you're buying from

Cybercriminals use fake websites to trick consumers into handing over their debit and credit card information. Make sure the website URL contains "https" in the URL before shopping, which means extra security measures are in place to protect data. Additionally, research the company before visiting its website by checking out Google Reviews and social media channels.

Be wary of “free” promotions

While shoppers focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, fraudsters are targeting you with holiday scams, hoping you’ll take the bait. Be highly cautious of items offered for “free” or inexpensive, especially from unfamiliar retailers. You’re opening the door to identity theft or malware by clicking links or signing up for bogus offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Pay with a credit or debit card

Credit cards often carry "zero-liability" protections and account monitoring. With zero-liability protections, you’re not liable for purchases if you report the suspicious activity in a reasonable time and take necessary safety precautions. Seacoast Bank’s debit card has similar zero-liability security features in place if you prefer your spending to be deducted directly from your account. Contact your financial institution for details about their zero-liability policy before you begin your online holiday shopping.

Pay using your digital wallet

Link your debit and credit card to your device's digital wallet for secure online shopping. Purchases made using a digital wallet are encrypted, meaning your personal information isn't shared with the merchant. As an added layer of security, your device’s facial recognition and passcode make it even harder for criminals to access your sensitive information.

Know common internet scams

Education is your first line of defense when it comes to preventing holiday fraud. From charity scams to Ponzi schemes, government websites USA.Gov and FBI.Gov list common scams and provide helpful resources for reporting them.

Avoid paying with gift cards

Gift card scams are prevalent during the holiday season because tracking transactions are complicated. If a retailer asks you to pay using a gift card, it's likely a scam. Scammers can quickly get your money without ever sending the item you purchased.

Research charities before giving

Be aware of fake charities and fraudsters impersonating legitimate charities during the holiday season. Fast-talking criminals may contact you hoping to catch you off guard or use wordplay to trick you into donating money. It’s important to know the organization you’re giving to and how the donation will be used. Charity Navigator is a website where you can search reputable charities before giving.

Monitor the shipping process

Cybercriminals use increased online shopping to create delivery scams. When purchasing online, always keep your tracking number of monitoring the process. Be alert of illegitimate texts and emails asking you to verify package delivery.

Cybercriminals use the popularity and convenience of online holiday shopping to gain access to your personal information. Educate yourself on common cybersecurity scams and be proactive in protecting yourself.

Remember, Seacoast Bank will never call, text, or email you asking you to provide, update, or verify sensitive information such as your PIN, social security numbers, debit or credit card numbers, passwords, or security codes. Learn more information on how to prevent cyberattacks this holiday season.



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