With the holiday shopping season officially upon us more and more consumers will turn to online shopping. There are a variety  of reasons for the increased popularity of online shopping, some people like the convenience, others enjoy the bargain hunting still others shop online to save some time. With the increase in online shopping comes an increase in online scams and fraud. The holiday season is an excellent time for fraudsters to plot scams and take advantage of consumers. Here are some tips that can help you identify potential scams and keep your holiday shopping safe.

Secure Site

Before doing anything you should ensure that the website you are browsing is a secure site. How can you determine if it is a secure site or not? Secured sites often have a “s” at the end of http (https), the “s” stands for secured.  Secured sites also tend to have a “lock” icon at the bottom of the screen. If the site is not secured you should avoid making any purchases or disclosing any personal information.

Extremely Low Prices

Although we all want the best things for the lowest prices, you should watch out for low price traps. Scammers know that cash strapped consumers will be looking for low prices and will try to take advantage of it. If the prices are much below the competition it should raise some red flags. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Too Much Information

Avoid divulging too much personal information when making online purchases. If the site starts asking about Social Insurance Number, Drivers license number, health card number and so on, don’t share it.

Keep Records

At least until you receive your items, you should keep your records of all your purchases. This can come in handy in case there are any issues with your orders and can help reduce the hassle.

Terms of Purchase

This goes for all types of transactions, not just online shopping. Be familiar with the terms of the purchase. How long of a warranty do you have? Can the item be returned for refund or will it be exchanged? Who pays shipping fees? What if the product is damaged? Familiarize yourself with these terms before making a purchase, if you do not like them or they seem unusual you may want to re-consider.

Public Wi-fi

You should always be careful when accessing the internet over a public wi-fi. Given the increased usage of online shopping during the holiday season, fraudsters will be looking forward to hack into public wi-fi and hoping to find some valuable information. You should avoid providing personal information, including credit card and banking information.

While these tips are not bullet proof they can help reduce the chances of you becoming a victim during this holiday season.

Have you fallen victim to cyber scams? Any other tips?


Ray is an ex-financial adviser and the founder of Financial Highway. Currently working in the financial industry and working towards completing his Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA, designation.