The holiday countdown is on, and more than half of holiday shoppers plan to make purchases online during the 2019 season of giving. Unfortunately, it’s also the season for online scammers to make a killing — typically, at your expense.

Online purchase scams, which can expose your identity and even drain your wallet, are the riskiest form of consumer fraud, according to a report published by the Better Business Bureau. And a recent Experian survey found that 43% of victims said their identity theft occurred while holiday shopping online.

While the thought of getting ripped off — during the holiday season, no less — is enough to make anyone say “Bah, humbug!” there are ways you can protect yourself while holiday shopping online.

Online holiday season shopping: The facts

Shopping heats up in November and December, and a lot of those transactions occur on laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Amid the increase in e-commerce, financial fraud climbs, too.

  • 8% of consumers surveyed in 2018 said they were a victims of identity theft during the holiday season.
  • 43% of online shoppers surveyed said their identity theft occurred holiday shopping online.
  • 56% of holiday shoppers plan to make purchases online in 2019.
  • $1,047.83: average amount that American consumers plan to spend on holiday shopping in 2019.
  • Up to $149 billion: online holiday shopping sales for 2019 (projected), from November to January.
  • 84% of holiday shoppers plan to use their smartphones to research products and look for coupons before buying in-store.
  • 18%: The amount online sales are projected to grow in 2019 compared with 2018.

How to protect yourself while holiday shopping online and afterward

The holidays should be a time of joy as you spend time with friends and family — not stress and frustration as you untangle a case of identity theft or financial fraud. Stay ahead of online scammers and identity thieves by using these tips to help secure your personal information while shopping online.

Ship to a secure location

The rise of online shopping has led to an increase of home deliveries — and with it, an increase in “porch pirates”, or thieves who steal packages from doorsteps. If no one’s home to accept a package, consider shipping to your office or another safe place. UPS, Amazon, and FedEx all now have shipping lockers available for secure deliveries.

Only use official retailer apps to shop

Mobile apps allow you shop for and purchase items while you’re on the go — making holiday shopping a breeze. But the danger arises if you unknowingly install an app laced with malicious software, or malware. Criminals use these apps to infiltrate smartphones and do any number of things, like direct users to fraudulent premium subscription services or automatically subscribing users to expensive content providers without the user’s consent. .

Protect yourself against malicious mobile apps by only downloading apps from reputable stores, such as Galaxy Apps, the App Store, Amazon App Store and Google Play. Some providers, such as Google Play, scan apps for malware prior to publishing them on their store.

Don’t save your credit card information on your accounts

While it may be convenient to store personal and payment information in your online accounts, it does come with risk. Some retail websites may not be equipped to secure your info, which could leave your personal details and payment card data vulnerable to cyberthieves or data breaches.

If a hacker accesses your favorite shopping account, it could then be easy for them to make fraudulent purchases with the credit card information you’ve saved in that account. That’s why it’s best to either skip the autofill option or try using a password manager, which provides an extra layer of protection to your account info.

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