Navigating the Holiday Shopping Season

Warning: Information you find on this page may be outdated or incorrect.

For many people, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are the most popular shopping days of the year.

Similar to 2020 and 2021, this year, 60% of holiday shoppers had started browsing and buying for the season as of early November. This consumer trend of earlier shopping was accelerated by the pandemic. In 2019, 56% of holiday shoppers had started their shopping around this time.

“While consumers continue to save the bulk of their holiday shopping for later in November and December, some of that spending has shifted into October,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “This year, 18% of holiday shoppers have completed at least half of their holiday shopping. While this is on par with last year, it is up from only 11% a decade ago.”

Advertisement

Online search (43%) remains the most popular source of gift inspiration, followed by friends and family (35%) and within a retail store (31%). The top five gift categories consumers plan to give are clothing (55%), followed by gift cards at 45%, toys at 37%, books/music/movies/video games at 33% and food/candy at 31%.

NRF forecasted earlier this month that holiday sales during November and December will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021 to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. Last year’s holiday sales grew 13.5% over 2020 and totaled $889.3 billion, shattering previous records. Holiday retail sales have averaged an increase of 4.9% over the past 10 years, with pandemic spending in recent years accounting for considerable gains.

If you find yourself shopping this season, here are several proactive steps to reduce your risk and make it harder for cyber criminals to succeed this holiday season.

Proceed with caution at retail locations that do not accept Chip-card transactions.

  • If you encounter a point-of-sale terminal with a note covering the slot saying “no Chip cards” or “must swipe”, consider using cash instead of a card – or, consider a smartphone payment option such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.
  • If cash or smartphone payment is not an option, use a credit card as opposed to a debit account. If your debit card information is compromised in a data breach, criminals can drain your checking account with no guarantee you will recover all of the funds.

Enable transaction notifications through online banking and smartphone apps.

  • Set up alerts with your bank and credit providers to be notified in the event of unauthorized transactions or certain activities, such as charges over $100.
  • Many financial institutions now offer the option to receive a text message or smartphone app alert every time a transaction is charged to your account.

Take advantage of credit monitoring or identity theft insurance, when offered.

  • If your data was compromised in one of the many breaches that occurred over the last two years, sign up for any free credit monitoring or identity theft insurance services offered by the company. If you are eligible for coverage, you should have received a letter in the mail with information. You can always search for past data breaches by querying a search engine for the company name + “data breach”.
  • For additional information, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all financial, email, and online shopping accounts.

  • If a website offers 2FA, be sure to enable it as it will prevent criminals from gaining access to your accounts, even if they obtain the password.
  • Check out this site for an extensive list of websites that offer 2FA: twofactorauth.org.

Perform basic “cyber-hygiene” on all devices used for shopping, banking, etc.

  • Keep your operating system and all software applications updated.
  • Download antivirus/antispyware software and set it to update automatically.
  • Confirm that your firewall is enabled and configured to a secure setting.
  • Secure your home Wi-Fi signal with a strong password.
  • Remove any unnecessary software/apps and avoid downloading apps from untrusted sources.
  • Check out “Ten Ways to Improve the Security of a New Computer” from US –CERT.

Look for “HTTPS” and a lock symbol in the URL field of your browser when shopping or banking online.

  • The “s” in “HTTPS” stands for “secure” and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.
  • Do not enter any login credentials or personal/financial information into any website that does not display this security feature.

If possible, opt for using credit cards instead of debit cards for shopping transactions.

  • While both payment methods pose risk if compromised, debit cards do not carry the same consumer protections as credit cards, which limit the victim’s liability in the event of fraudulent charges. Also, it can take longer to recover funds stolen from a debit account, and in some circumstances there is no guarantee that that all funds will be returned to the victim.
  • Choose one credit card to do all or most of your holiday shopping to make reviewing for unauthorized purchases easier.

We hope these tips help keep you safe this holiday season! And be sure to visit Asheville.com’s shopping guide to find local businesses to support!