Don’t let scammers ruin your holiday. Here’s how to stay safe while shopping online

Heather L. Whitley
·4 min read

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It's time to begin online holiday shopping - is your computer secure? (Photo: Getty)
It's time to begin online holiday shopping - is your computer secure? (Photo: Getty)

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is normal right now. So it should be no surprise that holiday shopping will also look and feel different in 2020. First, it’s happening earlier than ever. Spurred on by Amazon’s Prime Day in October, many consumers are starting to shop now – even before Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit. Plus with COVID-19 restrictions in place and many shoppers still wary of being inside stores, online shopping is expected to be huge this season.

But if you think you’re safe just browsing the internet for gift ideas, think again.

Scammers are trolling your searches to identify which products holiday shoppers are looking for. “When you click on things, even if you don’t make a purchase, scammers have access to those tools, so they can really get a good gauge of what it is you’re looking for,” says Melissa Lanning Trumpower, the Executive Director of the Better Business Bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust to Yahoo Life. “They’re always looking for the most popular products to offer those up to consumers at the best price, and as we know price is the key factor to falling prey to a scam so that’s something need to be careful about, especially around during holiday season. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If no one else has that product, and it’s a great price, just be very careful and proceed with caution.”

Another way to make your online shopping more secure and seamless is with System Mechanic. It’s software you can install on your PC to make sure the data you’ve deleted on your computer is really gone — including your internet history and cache.

Shop it: System Mechanic, free for 30 days then $4.99 a month at subscriptions.yahoo.com

System Mechanic also makes your computer run more efficiently, running a comprehensive scan of over 200 tests in just minutes. It also gets rid of all of those junk files, giving your computer more memory and reducing unwanted crashes.

Want to dip your toe in the water before you dive in? Right now, System Mechanic is completely free for 30 days. After that, you pay just $4.99 a month for ultimate peace of mind.

Don't let scammers ruin your holiday. Protect your computer. (Photo: Getty)
Don't let scammers ruin your holiday. Protect your computer. (Photo: Getty)

The riskiest online shopping scams of 2020

Forecasters at Deloitte predict U.S. holiday e-commerce sales will be up 35 percent and generate more than $190 billion. But along with the surge in online shopping, comes a spike in online scams.

“Online purchase scams were in the top three riskiest scams for the third year in a row," says Trumpower. "When COVID hit, then it became very clear that this was becoming even riskier because people were increasing their online presence.” Each year, her team puts together a report that identifies the riskiest scams for consumers. Trumpower said this year’s report shows buying online continues to be one of the biggest offenders.

So before you start shopping for that perfect holiday gift, make sure you have the tools and information you need to keep yourself safe and your personal information secure.

Right now, System Mechanic is completely free for 30 days. After that, you pay just $4.99 a month for ultimate peace of mind.

For added security, try LastPass Premium for your online shopping this holiday season (Photo: Getty)
For added security, try LastPass Premium for your online shopping this holiday season (Photo: Getty)

Trumpower says the BBB’s study reveals that paying with plastic is much safer than using debit cards or gift cards. “Make sure that when you do enter a payment that you’re using a credit card or PayPal. Those are the two payments methods that didn’t lose as much money,” she says. “When people were using non-traceable payment methods, they were more likely to not get their money back or lose money.”

The FTC adds that credit card companies also let you dispute unauthorized charges or temporarily withhold payment when you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam.

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