With Cyber Monday just around the corner and the holiday online shopping season in full swing, the South Carolina (SCDOR) wants to remind South Carolinians to be safe while shopping online.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 43% of holiday shoppers surveyed plan to wait until November to start buying for the holidays and 59% say they plan to switch to online shopping this year. The NRF and national chains are encouraging shoppers to shop safely and early this holiday season.

Because of concerns generated by the pandemic, marketing firms are predicting "exploding" online holiday sales and decreased in-store purchases. According to Forbes, national accounting firm Deloitte predicts online holiday retail sales to grow between 25% to 35% from November through January, reaching $182 billion to $196 billion in total.

If you're planning to make your list and check it twice online, don't forget about cyber thieves. Check out these tips to keep your online shopping safe, merry, and bright:

  • Only shop at trusted websites. If you find a gift at a price that sounds too good to be true, it may be. Beware of clicking links from unfamiliar websites. Some sites exist just to collect credit card information and offer rock-bottom prices to lure shoppers.
  • Don't use public Wi-Fi when shopping. Cyber thieves like public Wi-Fi because they can intercept shoppers' signals and collect credit card information and other personal data, like names and addresses. Do your shopping from home using your secured Wi-Fi connection.
  • Lock up your devices and secure your accounts. For passwords, use a complex set of at least 10 lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, symbols, or random words and numbers. Don't use personal information others can guess such as your kids' names or birthdays. Never use one password for multiple accounts.
  • Use secure websites and trusted app sites. Ensure the URL begins with "https" and includes a padlock symbol before providing your credit card information. Read the permissions with any downloaded app.
  • Use credit, not debit cards. You get the best liability protection when you use a credit card. Federal regulations say you don't have to pay if a cyber thief racks up unauthorized charges while the credit card company investigates. Most credit card companies offer $0 liability for fraudulent purchases. Some banks offer virtual credit cards, which use randomly issued numbers to link to your account.
  • Make sure your computer is protected. Always keep your security software, apps, and computer's operating system updated for maximum protection. Use a security app on your mobile device.
  • Save your records. This includes receipts, warranties, cancellation policies, order confirmations, and delivery details. Check your bank statements for unusual charges. Report any fraudulent activity immediately to your bank or card issuer.
  • Don't click on suspicious links. If you get an unexpected text or email that appears to be from an online shopping site or your bank, think twice before clicking any links. Cybercriminals often pose as trusted sites in an attempt to steal your information or your money. Learn more about how to spot a phishing text and email, and what to do if you receive one, from the FTC.