Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with an early gift from the Federal Trade Commission: tips to help you watch your wallet, shop wisely and protect your personal information.

  • Make a list and a budget.  Impulse purchases are less tempting when you have a game plan. Consider how much you are willing to put on your credit card, and how long it might take to pay it off.  If money is tight, paying for a gift over time through layaway might help.
  • Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about the product, seller, and warranties from sources you trust.  If you are shopping online, check for reports that items were never delivered or not as advertised.
  • Look for the best deals. Check out reputable websites that compare prices for items online and at your local stores. Remember, there may be shipping costs for online orders.  Look for coupon codes by searching the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money, keep an eye out for rebates.
  • Keep track of purchases. Make sure the scanned price is right, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order or confirmation number, the refund and return policies, and shipping costs. Have packages delivered to a secure location or pick them up at a local store.
  • Give gifts, not personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” address. Stick to shopping apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure.  Avoid holiday offers that ask you to give financial information – no matter how tempting. They might be trying to steal your identity.

Watch for Cyber Crime

Cybercriminals are holiday shopping, too, looking for people to scam out of their money. Here are some tips to help you outsmart those bah-humbug scammers and donate safely.

  • Online shopping? Pay by credit card. Credit cards give you extra protection for most online purchases. And many cards offer benefits, like protection for returns and purchases. If unauthorized charges pop up on your statement, you will be able to dispute the charges. Credit card protections can vary, so check with your issuer to understand all of your card’s protections. American Federal offers competitive credit cards with rewards options.
  • Buy gift cards for gifts, not for payments. Gift cards are a great holiday gift; however, they also are a scammer’s favorite way to steal your money. Anyone who contacts you and demands that you pay them with a gift card, for any reason, is always a scammer. Report gift card scams directly with the card issuer and then report it to the FTC at gov/complaint. Learn even more at ftc.gov/giftcards.  If you buy gift cards, treat them like cash and keep them in safe place.
  • Research charities before you donate. With the generous spirit of the holidays, and with year-end fundraising, ’tis the season for donations. Make sure your donation goes where you want it to, not into the hands of a scammer. Before you spread holiday cheer by donating to a charity or a crowdfunding cause, look into it first to make sure it is legitimate.  If someone calls, asking you to give to a charity, do not let them rush you into making a donation. Instead, research the charity to make sure your donation counts.  Visit ftc.gov/charity to learn more.

Wishing you happy and safe holidays from American Federal Bank.