Smart Shopping During the Holidays
Keep your finances safe while you shop during this holiday season.
The NCUA Fraud Prevention Center educates consumers on how to recognize common scams and take action if you think you are a victim of fraud. It also provides useful tips for protecting your finances.
The NCUA has put together a list of tips to help protect your finances this holiday season.
Holiday Shopping Tips
The holidays are officially here and that means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday spending. Many Americans take on extra debt during the holiday season, leading to a New Year with new debts. Use this budgeting worksheet to help you keep track of all the costs associated with your holiday spending.
Due to production lags, microchip shortages, and global supply chain issues gifts may not be as easy to find this year. To adapt, come up with an attainable budget and a flexible shopping list. Some alternative gift examples include shopping local, purchasing gift cards or delaying gift giving, telling kids they will get the highly coveted presents later, and or considering experience gifts as opposed to tangible gifts.
Lookout for Scams
The FTC reports, “A lot of things you might buy for the holidays, like toys, have chips in them, so the shortage means prices are likely going up, and items that have chips can be harder to find. Scammers follow the headlines too — and just like with the mask shortage, scammers will set up shop, “sell” what everyone is trying to buy — but not deliver.” To avoid getting scammed the FTC recommends researching sellers by doing an online search of the retailer’s name and product, along with key words like “scam” or “complaint.” For the full list of tips from the FTC click here to read the “Your Guide to Holiday Shopping During a Chip Shortage (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) .
Beware of the Hype
Even Black Friday or Cyber Monday discounts may not be as good of a deal this year. Create a shopping plan based on your budget and stick to your plan. Without proper planning browsing may turn into buying items you do not actually need or can afford. The Better Business Bureau recommends, you “Read the fine print. Some retailers may offer an additional percentage discount on the purchase but could exclude certain deals or items such as “door busters.” Watch for companies boasting a high percentage off; the item may be “75% off,” but the original price could be inflated.” For more Black Friday tips from the BBB click here (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) .
Comparison shopping is not only about focusing on the price. Other details to consider are shipping costs, return policies, and product warranties. The FTC advises, “Before you start to comparison shop make note of the item’s manufacturer or model number, plus details you want to check, like size, color, or shipping fees. Use the information on comparison shopping sites that list retail stores and online sellers that have the item.” For more tips from the FTC on comparison shopping click here (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) .
Purchase and Pay Wisely
Do not allow the urgency of this season to cause impulse buying and overextending your budget. Use this year’s shortages as an opportunity to spend less, instead of spending more. If paying with credit cards or variations on “buy now, pay later” beware of your consumer protection rights with each purchase. For more information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on popular on Buy Now Pay Later Options click here (opens new window) (You will be leaving NCUA.gov and accessing a non-NCUA website. We encourage you to read the NCUA's exit link policies. (opens new page).) .
Avoid Buying Hacked Gift Cards
Be careful when purchasing gift cards at retail stores. If you choose a gift card that is not located behind a counter, thieves can write down the gift card code or use a device to scan the magnetic strip on the back of the card. Every few days, the thief will check the balance and redeem the card's value online without you or your gift recipient’s knowledge.
When buying a preloaded card, always have the cashier scan the card to verify that the full amount is available. Also, check to make sure the packaging has not been tampered with or damaged. This may be sign that the gift card has been compromised or replaced with a stripped gift card. If possible, register your gift card with the retailer.
Use a Secure Wi-Fi Connection
Using your laptop, tablet or smartphone at Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places is convenient, but often they’re not secure. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network, and send information through websites or mobile apps, it might be accessed by someone else. The bad guys are there too, shopping for your information.
One way scammers obtain your information is by putting out a Wi-Fi signal that looks just like a complimentary one, also known as the evil twin. The evil twin is similar to a phishing scam. Choose the wrong Wi-Fi and the hacker now sits in the middle and steals your personal or financial information. When you use a Wi-Fi connection in a public place, it is better not to use your credit card.
To protect your information when using wireless hotspots, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted, and avoid using mobile apps that require personal or financial information.