Online holiday shopping: How to avoid the tricky scams, setbacks and budget busters

By Jared Bilski
December 13th, 2018 Uncategorized No Comments

If you now do the bulk of your holiday shopping online, you’re not alone. 

A simple, one-click purchasing makes online shopping a no-brainer for many seniors.

Plus, there’s the sheer chaos of setting foot in a shopping mall any time after Thanksgiving. Who wants to deal with that nightmare, right? As the ever quotable Jane Fonda once said (I’m paraphrasing here), I’d rather take a bubble bath with a tub full of piranhas than set foot in a mall in December.

Despite all the benefits of online shopping — and there are many — there are also plenty of risks. After all, Digital Commerce 360 reports that consumers spent $435.46 billion on online retail purchases in 2017, a 16% bump from 2016’s numbers.

With all that money involved, unscrupulous people see a golden opportunity to defraud folks of their hard-earned funds. To navigate the dangers of online shopping, keep these things top of mind this holiday season:

The Scams

Avoid “out-of-this-world” deals. This should be the mantra of all online holiday shoppers: If it sounds too good to be true, then by golly, it is.

This is especially true with things you see on social media. Even if one of your trusted Facebook friend is the one who shared the supposed “deal,” avoid the temptation to jump at opportunities that encourage you to “act now before it’s too late!”

Don’t let your heartstrings trick your head. Most people bump up their charitable contributions during the holidays — and fraudsters are well aware of this fact. As a result, you’re bound to be hit with an influx of requests to open up your purse strings and help those in need. While many of these charities are legit, there are a lot of illicit organizations as well.

Best bet: Do your homework and research any unknown charities online at

Delete those shipping and delivery emails. A common scam seniors fall victim to during the holiday season is via an email urging them to click on a shipping and/or delivery confirmation from a company claiming to be FedEx or UPS. The worst part is these messages can look very official.

Remember, companies like FedEx or UPS will provide you with a tracking number from the merchant. If you want to check on the status of your online purchase, it’s safest to go to the shipping website (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and manually enter the tracking number you were provided.

To view a complete and detailed list of the scams from last year, check out this info that has compiled.

The Safeguards

 Keep passwords strong. It seems like we’re asked to create a strong and unique password for everything we do online these days. And as frustrating and time-consuming as it is to not only create these strong passwords but also to keep track of them, it’s absolutely essential.

If you’re looking for tips on how to create strong passwords to protect your confidential info, Connect Safely has some truly invaluable information here. Added bonus: The site also offers plenty of general tips about online safety for seniors.

Check, check, check your statements. You should already be regularly checking your bank statements for unusual activity, but you may want to do this a bit more often during the holidays.

If you notice something is amiss, contact your credit card company or bank ASAP. In most cases, you have up to 30 days to dispute a purchase.

Read the fine print carefully. Additional fees, return policies, shipping and never-ending taxes are often discreetly listed. Shipping costs alone may double the price of something you thought you were getting a deal on. The good news is there’s a great way to skirt high shipping costs, and it’s called Free Shipping Day. On Dec. 14, a host of retailers offer free shipping and guarantee delivery by Christmas. Find out more about it here and mark that date on your calendar!!

Bottom line: Before you click the purchase button, carefully scroll through the screen to make sure those extras (often listed in super-small font) don’t go unnoticed.

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