With a flurry of leaves and a sip of pumpkin spice, the holiday season brings fun with family—and the need to shop! But how do you keep your family safe when money scams, identity theft and phishing attempts are lurking around every corner?

Here is a helpful checklist so you can stay safe this holiday shopping season:

Secure Your Online Shopping

  • Use unique passwords — When shopping online, many websites will require strong passwords. However, it’s more important to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If you do, a cybercriminal could easily hack several accounts by discovering that one password. Instead, you can use a free password manager to keep track and generate unique passwords for each online account.
  • Shop from reputable websites — Stay safe online by only using well-known, reputable websites. Some good ways to spot dangerous websites are suspicious domain names, steep price discounts, poor website design and non-existent contact information.
  • Use caution on public Wi-Fi – In the rush of holiday shopping, it may be tempting to buy things on the go, using free (open) public WiFi where hackers can monitor your information. A secure option is to use your cellular network while purchasing on your phone.

A tip from TTCU's cybersecurity expert, Josh O.

Avoid clicking on random ads even on well-known, reputable websites. Some sites don’t control the ads that show up. Clicking on a harmless-looking ad in the sidebar could lead you to a dangerous malware site. A better alternative is to use Google to find a standard result link (below the sponsored section.) Then, search for the offer on the actual website. If you don’t find it, perhaps it was too good to be true!

Safeguard Your Communication

  • Catch phishing emails — Phishing is what it sounds like: some not-so-nice crooks who are fishing for your information. You can spot a phishing email by noticing poor writing, bad grammar or typos, suspicious email addresses and too-good-to-be-true shopping offers.
  • Protect yourself from text scams – Cybercriminals use several tactics to acquire your personal information. Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Instead, you can block them or report them to the FTC (ReportFraud.ftc.gov). Be wary of unknown numbers and unexpected texts demanding that you provide information or click links.

Protect Your Identity

  • Be cautious with personal information – As you’re shopping, think before you share. Your full name, birth date, birthplace, social security number and other sensitive information should be safeguarded.
  • Take care with credit or debit cards – When you pay, cover up the keypad while you enter your PIN. Remember to get your card back once you’ve paid. A card left behind could be stolen or compromised.

More from Josh O. 

How would you personally shop this holiday season? 
“I would…

  • Do all my shopping at home, on a secured WiFi.
  • Use a password manager to create unique passwords for all my online accounts.
  • Safely search Google by only clicking on standard result links below the sponsored section on the results page.


Equipped with these helpful tips, you can stay security savvy while you’re out there shopping. Enjoy what matters the most—creating warm memories with family!