According to the National Retail Federation, online retail sales skyrocketed to $96 billion during the 2012 holiday season. The organization expects overall holiday sales to increase by 3.9% in 2013 with an average of $738 spent per shopper on gifts and other holiday items. Savvy consumers know that thrift shopping can get you unique holiday decorations and gifts and save your budget, but it can be a little more difficult to navigate.
Whether you’re shopping on or offline, there are ways to protect yourself during the holiday season. Here are some tips from PennySaverUSA.com:
Keep Santa’s Online Shopping Secure
Online thrift stores make shopping easy, but it’s also easy to get scammed, hacked and phished. You may think youâ€™re savvy enough not to fall for phishing emails alerting you that you’ve been hacked. It might say that all you need to do is enter your confidential information into a form to resolve it. But more sophisticated phishers may copy a retailer’s logo, email templates and mask a URL to look like the real thing.
Always manually type the url of a retailer directly into a browser or call their customer service department if you suspect your account information has been compromised. Using credit cards or a service like LifeLock can also help keep your identity safe while shopping.
Go Shopping With the Credit Cards You Left at Home
If you already park near well-lit entrances, keep a sharp eye on your wallet and personal belongings, or store credit cards in a lock box, you’ll love Google Wallet. The app securely stores your credit card info and loyalty point programs in one place. While you can use Google Wallet to send money to anyone with an email address or online, it’s also handy for in-store use. Pay for holiday gifts at the hundreds of thousands of merchants who accept contactless payments.
Find the Best Price On the Go
Remember to use time and money saving apps for your holiday shopping. Over half the smartphones users Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies polled in 2011 said they use their devices to help compare prices and find product reviews. Join the crowd and find the best deals while shopping.
Try an app like ShopSavvy to scan barcodes to find a list of retailers and online stores that carry it along with a convenient price comparison. BuyVia allows shoppers to compare prices both nationally and locally while setting up shopping alerts. Like ShopSavvy, you can also use BuyVia to scan the barcode of your item, find out if it’s the best price, or research where you can get it cheaper, as PC Mag explains.
Be in the Know With Hotspots
It’s tempting to jump onto a free WiFi network to snap up a hot online deal you heard about. However, be wary of connections that don’t require a password for access. According to StaySafeOnline.org, the direct web access on your phone with a 3G or 4G connection or higher is safer than unsecured wireless networks on your smartphone.
Keep Your Paper Trail Incognito
Whether you shop online or off, keep a diligent paper trail of receipts and any warranties. But instead of leaving financially sensitive information lying around your home, car or office, use a site like Shoeboxed to store your info in one secure place. Shoeboxed digitizes and archives receipts and important documents into a single secure location.
What about safety? Shoeboxed uses the same SSL encryption as major banks and has been certified by TRUSTe, a leader in online privacy and security. You can then use that info to streamline your bookkeeping, tax deductions and expense reports.