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How to stay protected while shopping online this holiday season

October 26, 2023

(BPT) - There's nothing like the convenience of doing your holiday shopping online. You save money on gas, avoid crowds, and skip the long checkout lines. What’s more, you’ll often find more unique items for everyone on your list than you would at a store.

But as more people turn to spending money online — buying gifts, booking travels, and sending money — the bustling holiday season also becomes a prime time for scammers looking to take advantage of busy consumers. Bad actors see the holidays as an opportunity to strike as your guard may be down while you rush to get your holiday shopping done.

Scams have been on the rise over the past few years. Shockingly, over 151 million Americans have been victims of credit card fraud, according to data from Security.org. As fraud becomes more common, sophisticated scammers are finding creative ways to trick people into sharing their personal information and data, and the risks tend to increase during the holiday shopping frenzy.

But this doesn’t mean you have to give up holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home. There are ways to help protect yourself — by being aware of common scams, knowing what to look for, and using available tools to safeguard your accounts and information, you can shop online without getting duped.

Holiday phishing scams: Beware of suspicious emails or texts

Phishing attacks are on the rise and are becoming increasingly sophisticated. With the influx of promotional emails and texts advertising year-end deals, it’s even more likely you might mistake a phishing message as legitimate during the holidays.

Phishing is a common technique used by scammers to gain access to your personal information and accounts, potentially leading to financial loss and more stress than you need this holiday season. Phishing emails and texts will ask you to respond with information like your passwords or account numbers, or request that you call a phone number, open an attachment, or click a link. Even if these messages seem to come from a legitimate company, you may notice things like spelling errors or a return email address that doesn’t match the company website.

If you aren’t positive that a message is safe, it’s better to be safe than sorry — delete the messages, don’t call, or click links, and don’t respond. For PayPal users, PayPal monitors transactions with their 24/7 Fraud Monitoring to help prevent fraud and identity theft, while its credential monitoring safeguards your account details. You can also report fraudulent shipping messages and invoices on the PayPal website or app.

You can also give yourself the gift of security by protecting yourself against common phishing scams now: update your passwords so they are strong and unique and consider using multi-factor authentication. PayPal users can create a passkey1 — a phishing-resistant login method that's more secure and easier to use than passwords.

Deceptive holiday discounts: Is that deal too good to be true?

As you scroll through Instagram, you come across an ad promoting the newest laptop you’ve wanted to buy your teenager for the holidays, offered at a fraction of its typical price. The ad seems like it could be from a legitimate business, but something about it rubs you the wrong way. Could the deal really be as good as it seems? Or is it a scam?

If you see a deal that seems too good to be true, it might be. Don’t click the link in the ad; instead, visit a trusted retailer’s website to check if they’re promoting that same offer. Scammers will often promote deceptive ads or marketplace listings attempting to trick you into buying something, only to be disappointed by an item that is not as described or never arrives.

One way to safeguard your purchases is paying through PayPal. When you checkout with PayPal online, you may be covered with PayPal Purchase Protection if your item shows up different than described or never arrives. You can also track your online purchases in the PayPal app with PayPal Package Tracking. It will automatically share live updates on the status and whereabouts of your package.

The “holiday emergency” scam: Think before you lend

Imagine: you’re decorating for the holidays when you suddenly get an urgent money request. It’s from your cousin Martha and she needs money to get home in time for the holidays — but the ask sets off alarm bells. Many scammers will use this trick, knowing the emotional appeal tugs at your heartstrings as “Martha” stresses how badly she wants to spend the holidays with the family.

If you receive a money request that seems suspicious, simply decline and report it. PayPal gives you the option to report in one click, either online or in the PayPal app. PayPal's user experience controls also allow you to block or report suspicious users. And if you do want to send money to your family or friends for the holidays — you can use PayPal’s digital wallet to do so safely.

Shop safely this season: Improve your security and stay vigilant

By staying vigilant with these tips and using tools like PayPal, you can shop and pay online with peace of mind during this busy time. The PayPal App offers smart security, 24/7 fraud monitoring, purchase protection and more — giving you one less thing to worry about. Buy online with the convenience and safety of PayPal, so you can spend more of your time making the holidays merry and bright for your friends and family. Learn more at https://www.paypal.com/us/digital-wallet/security-and-protection

  1. Requires an eligible Apple iOS or Android device

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