Staying Ahead: Tips for Safe Online Shopping for the Holidays

Another tip in a series provided by the offices of Information Security, Information Systems and Computing and Audit, Compliance and Privacy.

The holiday shopping season has always been a profitable time for scammers. This year, with supply chain issues limiting the availability of popular items, it will be even more difficult for shoppers to avoid scams. Here are some tips for staying safe while shopping online:

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Wanted items that sell for less than the list price are a red flag that something is wrong.

Use a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping online. Credit cards aren’t directly connected to your bank account – if there are issues with a shady seller, your bank funds aren’t involved.

Review all of the reviews available about your seller when purchasing through an online marketplace, such as eBay or Etsy. How long have they been in business? What are their seller ratings? Review the listing carefully to make sure you know exactly what you are purchasing. Make sure you understand the seller’s return or refund policies for the item. If you have any questions, ask them before you buy. Keep in mind that most sales platforms also have customer service to help you if you have additional questions or experience a problem with a purchase.

Only use the payment methods supported by your purchasing platforms. Do not accept any offer from a seller to “step off the platform” for any reason to complete or complete a transaction. Also, do not use PayPal’s “Friends and Family” option to buy from a seller, as that option does not offer you payment protection as a buyer. Use only approved payment methods and nothing else.

Confirm purchase protection status before purchasing. Know what shopping protections are offered by the shopping platform you are using, especially if you are making a large purchase. If you are planning to buy from a platform like Facebook Marketplace, where only certain items are protected from purchases, be extra careful.

For additional guidance, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: https://www.isc.upenn.edu/security/news-alerts#One-Step-Ahead.