4 tips to protect yourself this holiday season

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday in the rearview mirror, you might think the busiest shopping days are over. Actually, Dec. 23 is the busiest shopping day of the year, according to Business Insider. 

With a good chunk of the shopping season still to go, you'll want to follow these four tips to stay safe.

No. 1: Shop at legitimate websites

This holiday season, shop at only legitimate businesses while online.

"Shop at only legitimate businesses while online."

These are the stores or retailers you know and trust, such as national chains or local stores you've shopped at previously. Cybercrimes are always a threat, meaning you'll want to stay aware of your surroundings while online.

Some signs about whether a company is legit can be found in the address bar. Only shop at companies that have the latest security certificates that are indicated by a green padlock and "https://" in your browser. These two indicators tell you the connection to the retailer is secure, and your data is private while you complete a transaction.

Let's say though that you stumble upon a deal that is too good to pass up on but they don't have the latest security certificates. Examine the website before checking out and see if the business holds a positive standing with the Better Business Bureau or that the merchant is verified with Google. These are usually designated in the checkout stage.

And you should always remain suspicious of deals, particularly if they're from companies you've never heard of. Not everything on the internet is real, and as the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

No. 2: Watch your packages

Once you order something online, it has to get to you somehow. Yet, you can't take deliveries for granted and need to prevent packages from being stolen.

You may be able to leave special delivery instruction depending on the service. You can request specific delivery times with UPS or FedEx. This way, you'll only receive packages when you're home and won't have to worry about theft or weather damages. But if delivery management isn't an option, have packages delivered to your workplace instead.

There's one final way to protect yourself: an outdoor security camera. You'll need to install one that overlooks your doorway, but these cameras can record everything and even alert you to suspicious movements. The sight of a camera alone should be enough to deter a thief.

No. 3: Be aware of your surroundings

Physically going to a store or mall is still popular and all the more reason to stay aware of your surroundings. Always keep your personal belongings - like a wallet or purse - in your sight. Ladies, you may want to carry a smaller purse that's more difficult for someone to snatch. Gentlemen, put your wallet in your front pocket to avoid pickpocketing.

Many stores will stay open longer during the holidays, so make sure the parking lot is well lit to avoid being surprised by anyone. Even with bright lights or during the day, try not to linger. Approach your car with keys in hand, unlock, put everything in, get in and then lock the door.

Unfortunately, not all shopping trips are a pleasant experience. Some shoppers may become agitated over limited quantities or long lines. If at any time you don't feel comfortable about a situation, don't hesitate to leave because you can always come back later.

Making multiple trips to the store is not a terrible idea either. For example, you don't want to risk someone breaking into your car that's filled with gifts. You can either cover the merchandise with a blanket or head home, drop everything off and head back to the mall. No one wants to see the car and see a window smashed in.

Holiday tree in mallAlways be alert of your surroundings while shopping.

No. 4: Pay with credit

Utilizing credit while shopping is a double edged sword. It provides an easy way to pay for everything, but you have to spend wisely.

However, the security protections most cards offer are why you should use credit when shopping. Take Landmark Bank's Plutonium Signature credit card, which comes with purchase security and fraud security features to protect you and the purchases you make.

For more information about smart ways to manage your finances, contact Landmark Bank.

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