The Ping: Staying Safe in the Holiday Season

The holidays are just around the corner, and many of us will be purchasing gifts online. This is the time when scammers are out in force, looking to separate you from your gifts and money. In this edition of “The Ping” we will look at several precautions you can take to minimize your risk.

Buying Online: https:// vs. http:// …

Before purchasing from a website because it has the best deal, make sure to research their credibility. Some scammers will list fake discounts to obtain peoples’ credit card information when they attempt to make a purchase. One thing to look for is at the top of the webpage, in the address bar, a small padlock will appear on a protected site. Website addresses that use https:// (versus http://) are considered secure because the interaction with the site is encrypted. It does not always mean the site is safe however, just that the connection to the site is secure. You should still make sure that the site itself is valid. The best way to do this is to use a website for a known vendor, and to make sure the domain name is spelled right! For example: – this is a known online retailer. – this is a “look alike” website; it is likely phishing for your amazon account credentials and card information.

Note: even on known marketplaces like Amazon, make sure to check the seller for any given listing. Not all resellers are created equal. Most such marketplaces allow users to review resellers, and you can often find out from those reviews if a listing is trustworthy.

Using or losing a credit card…

When making your purchases, use a credit card with fraud protection. Keep an eye on your account and report any fraudulent charges quickly! According to Federal Law, “your liability for unauthorized use of your credit card tops out at $50. However, if you report the loss before your credit card is used, the FCBA says you are not responsible for any charges you didn’t authorize. If your credit card number is stolen, but not the card, you are not liable for unauthorized use.” If you use a debit card, your liability depends on how soon you report the fraud and could be a lot higher.  PayPal offers an alternate payment method, rather than inputting your credit card numbers into a seller’s site directly. It also offers a nice return policy for eligible items purchased through them. “Return shipping on us to get refunded for up to $30 on 12 eligible purchases a year.” – PayPal.

Buying and Selling in Person: Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc…

Sometimes, you find the perfect gently used gift online from an individual seller. Or maybe you’re ready to do a DVD or toy purge, and you want to find buyers online. How do you protect yourself when making a transaction? Many vendors have reached out to local police departments to identify safe internet exchange locations. These are usually well lit and have video cameras. Here are a few of the most popular websites to find a safe place to meet up.

Shipping Gifts

We’ve all heard about the increased rate at which packages are being stolen off of people’s front porches in the past couple of years. These “porch pirates” drive around neighborhoods looking for packages that they can quickly grab and go. Here are a few ways you can keep your packages from falling victim:

  • Amazon Lockers – When making your purchase on Amazon, look for the nearest Amazon locker instead of using your home address. You can go and pick up your items using a provided key code.
  • Amazon Key – Sign up for Amazon Key. The key kit’s price starts at around $250, but it gives you a smart key and a security camera that allows the Amazon delivery driver to leave your packages just inside your door.
  • Amazon Key in-Car – Similar to Amazon Key, this allows the items to be placed directly into your vehicle. This offer is still new; the makes of cars they work with are limited.
  • Local Safe Shipment Locations – For example: the Round Rock police department is allowing people to ship their items directly to them and pick them up within three days of arrival. For more information check out Operation Front Porch.


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