Don’t let scammers ruin your holiday: Here’s how to stay safe while online shopping

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Holiday shopping season is here, but is your computer secure? (Photo: Getty)

The past few holiday seasons have looked and felt different, especially in terms of online shopping — and the 2022 holiday season will be different, too. First, it’s happening earlier than ever. Spurred on by inflation and the lingering effects of global supply chain issues, many consumers are starting to shop now — even before Black Friday — to stretch their dollars and avoid unpleasant surprises with inventory and delivery.

Plus, with many shoppers still wary of being inside stores, online shopping is expected to be huge this season. But if you think you’re safe just browsing the internet for gift ideas, think again. Online scammers are more alert than ever, looking for any way they can to bait you. One way to make your online shopping more secure and seamless this season is with System Mechanic.

Install System Mechanic on your PC to make sure your browsing experience is private and all of the data you’ve deleted on your computer is really gone — including your internet history and cache. It also makes your computer run more efficiently, running a comprehensive scan of over 200 tests in just minutes, and gets rid of junk files, giving your computer more memory and reducing unwanted crashes.

Try System Mechanic free for 30 days*

Why is it important to clear your browsing history and your cache?

“When you click on things, even if you don’t make a purchase, scammers have access to those tools, so they can really get a good gauge of what it is you’re looking for,” says Melissa Lanning Trumpower, the Executive Director of the Better Business Bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust to AOL.

“They’re always looking for the most popular products to offer those up to consumers at the best price, and as we know price is the key factor to falling prey to a scam so that’s something we need to be careful about, especially around holiday season. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If no one else has that product, and it’s a great price, just be very careful and proceed with caution.”

online shopping
Try System Mechanic for your online shopping this holiday season (Photo: Getty)

The riskiest online shopping scams of 2022

Almost 75% of Americans experienced at least one type of holiday scam last year, according to a recent report. Although consumers will be spending slightly less this holiday season, more than half have started their holiday shopping earlier this year and plan to spread it out to stretch their cash flow, according to a survey by RetailMeNot. That means scammers are "waking up" earlier than ever this year, too.

As the pandemic made online shopping the new norm, online purchase scams became increasingly more prevalent. "When COVID hit, it became very clear that this was becoming even riskier because people were increasing their online presence,” says Trumpower.

So before you start shopping for that perfect holiday gift, make sure you have the tools and information you need to keep yourself safe and your personal information secure.

“When you create accounts online, use a different password for every account. That way if your password gets compromised on one account, the attacker will not be able to break into all your other accounts," Dr. Lorrie Cranor, the Director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University tells AOL. Dr. Cranor says some of the best ways to protect yourself and your personal information is to stick with websites and vendors you’re familiar with, do your research on those you haven’t heard of before and be smart about the way you set up your accounts. "Completely random passwords are safest, but they tend to be harder to remember. Write them down in a safe place or use a password manager program.”

Trumpower says the BBB’s study reveals that paying with plastic is much safer than using debit cards or gift cards. “Make sure that when you do enter a payment that you’re using a credit card or PayPal. Those are the two payments methods that didn’t lose as much money,” she says. “When people were using non-traceable payment methods, they were more likely to not get their money back or lose money.”

The FTC adds that credit card companies also let you dispute unauthorized charges or temporarily withhold payment when you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam.

Try System Mechanic free for 30 days*