Safe season’s shopping

Dec 18, 2012 3 minute read

Safe season’s shopping

The holidays are a time of giving. Unfortunately, for some, they’re also a time for taking. Whether you’re shopping in the mall or online, you can minimize the risk of theft. Here are a few tips for shopping safely and securely as well as information on how insurance can protect you.

Before you hit the mall

Before you go anywhere, record your credit and debit card numbers and lock them in a secure location. When it comes to PINs and passwords, lock those away in your memory. Never write them down or share them with anyone.

Leave cash at home, and use credit and debit cards instead. If you can, leave your purse or wallet behind too, and place cards in a deep, concealed pocket so they’re not likely to fall out while you are focused on shopping.

In the parking lot

If you’re going to be leaving the mall when it’s dark, park in a well-lit, high-traffic area as close as possible to an entrance. Stow packages and other temptations in the trunk or back of your vehicle, and out of sight from prying eyes. When walking through the parking lot, be alert to your surroundings, and lock the doors while warming up the car.

In the mall

Keep things as simple—and close to you—as possible. Carry your wallet in the inside pocket of your jacket. Keep your purse shut and snug to your body. If you are trying on something for yourself, don’t leave valuables unattended in a change room. Once you start accumulating purchases, consolidate them in as few bags as possible.

With chip technology, your payment cards are more secure than ever, but caution is still required. Pull your card out only when it’s asked for, and be careful when entering the PIN—you never know who’s looking over your shoulder. If the store isn’t equipped with chip technology and you must swipe the card, keep it in sight at all times.

Put receipts in your wallet or purse. Keeping them with purchases makes it easier for thieves to return stolen items and profit from them. Plus, if anything is stolen, you have proof of purchase, which will facilitate the claim process.

Online

According to security technology company McAfee, 58% of Canadians intend to shop online this holiday, and 1 in 3 of those will do it from a smartphone or tablet, often using banking and shopping apps.* This makes for a lucrative temptation for online criminals.

Online security begins with ensuring your computer is running the latest browser, firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware filters. Use strong passwords with a mix of letters and numbers, and change them regularly. Never give out your personal or account information unless you have initiated contact with a company. Neither banks nor reputable companies will ask for this information.

On your mobile device, activate the password lock and use only apps from trusted sources, paying attention to what permissions you grant in doing so. If they’re asking for too much information, do your research.

Purchase only from reputable online retailers with a secure site: the web address must begin with “https” and there will be a closed padlock or unbroken key icon somewhere in the browser window. Avoid using public WiFi hotspots to conduct transactions—they’re easy targets for tech-savvy fraudsters.

How insurance can help

It’s always a good idea to know your policy’s general conditions ahead of time, before you ever need to make a claim. Understanding your responsibilities and those of your insurance company’s will help make future claims go much smoother.

If you do happen to be the unfortunate victim of theft from your home or vehicle this holiday season, contact your broker. If you’re a victim of identity theft, contact your credit card company to see what will be covered. Although this kind of theft is hard to predict or prevent, you can protect yourself with identity theft insurance. Premiums start as low as $35 per year and can be bundled with your home and auto coverage. To find out more, contact your local BrokerLink insurance advisor.

 * McAfee reminds Canadians to beware the “12 Scams of Christmas”