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Black Friday Shopping: How to stay safe in the store and online

It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love to shop online or brave the Black Friday crowds in search of the best deal… and those who won’t go within a mile of the mall the day after Thanksgiving.  If you’re among the former, some thoughtful planning and a few precautions can make your day more productive, safe, and most of all, fun.

Here are a few tips for in-store Black Friday shopping:

1. Park near a light. Thieves are much less likely to target a car when there’s a bright light on it… especially when it’s out in the open. We recommend a spot where you can see and be seen (not next to a large van or truck).

2. Lock your car and hide your purchases in the trunk. If people don’t see shopping bags, they probably won’t see a reason to break in.

3. Use the buddy system. As with anything, there’s safety in numbers.

4. Keep your purse on your body or your wallet in your front pocket. Don’t make it easy for purse snatchers and pickpockets.

5. Shop with a single credit card. Keep only one credit card in your wallet, just in case it’s lost or stolen.

6. Avoid ATMs. If you can’t, at least choose one that is well lit. Shield your PIN as you key it in, and don’t leave behind receipts that may contain personal information.

7. Take precautions in the parking lot. Before you get in your car, look in it and under it. We also recommend that you have your keys handy before you get to your car. If you’re rummaging through your purse or digging into a pocket, you’re officially a distracted shopper – which would make it easy for the wrong people to approach you.

Most retailers offer the same deals online as in the store on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so many people prefer to shop online in the comfort of their own home.  This increase in online traffic and the likelihood of people letting down their guards mean it’s a prime time for hackers to do their worst.

Here are several types of cybersecurity attacks to watch out for while you’re doing your holiday shopping this year:

1.Keep passwords & personal data safe from phishing.  The best defense is to double down on your normal precautions by doing the following:

  • Don’t click on links in emails—instead, navigate directly to a company’s URL
  • Keep your software up to date on laptops and mobile devices
  • Ensure websites you visit are encrypted
  • Use two-factor authentication (just in case a phishing attempt gets through)


2. Don’t let your phone make you a victim through vishing & smishing.  While you may be pretty good at avoiding clicking on links from sketchy emails, attackers can use other vulnerabilities to get your information.

One such method is through your phone, where an attacker can leverage SMS or voice communication. These types of attacks are called smishing and vishing, respectively. If you’ve ever received a call from someone claiming to be from “Microsoft” who has noticed “something wrong with your computer,” you’ve seen vishing in action. These calls may be easy for a professional to spot, but because they tend to take place in more “live” settings, it can be easier to be manipulated into giving away information than you might think.

The best defenses against vishing and smishing are pretty close to avoiding phishing:

  • Don’t trust unknown callers—hang up and call a business’s listed phone number instead
  • Never click on links in text messages from someone you don’t know
  • Don’t give private information (i.e., account details, PINs, passwords) over the phone or via text


3.Watch out for malware.  While email phishing can be straightforward and somewhat easy to spot once you know what to look for, malware attacks come in an array of increasingly sneaky colors that can evade even the best anti-malware software. Malware is a bigger threat during Cyber Monday and Black Friday because we may be visiting sites looking for the best deals without double-checking a URL’s credentials.

While security software and encryption can help keep your personal computers safe from unwanted downloads, mobile devices can be much more vulnerable due to unofficial applications, as well as unguarded Bluetooth or WiFi connections.

As with phishing, the best way to prevent malware infection is to keep up what you normally do:

  • Install reliable antivirus software and keep it up-to-date
  • Scan your computer daily
  • Disable autorun or auto-download
  • Think before you click on links
  • Back up your files regularly in case you do become the victim of malware


4. Be smart when shopping online.  You may have a few trusted “go-to’s” for Cyber Monday—companies you’ve shopped at for years and trust not only to give you the best deals of the season, but to also keep your data safe from harm. Hackers are very aware that people are on the lookout for great deals after Thanksgiving, and they’re ready to take advantage of your vulnerability.

Here are a few steps you can take to keep yourself safe:

  • Make sure you’re buying from a reputable vendor
  • Check for SSL certificates and encryption (look for “https://”)
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card or direct bank account transfer
  • Double-check your credit card statements to catch fraud as soon as possible


5. Understand the risk of fake charities.  The holidays are also a time when many people like to give back to charitable causes. Sadly, hackers and other attackers are ready to take advantage of your generosity during this time and will stoop to pretending to be a charity to steal your money. Avoid being taken advantage of by scammers by being cautious when donating to a charity by doing the following:

  • Research the charity online before you make a donation, including searching for the name of the charity plus “scam” or complaint”
  • Use reputable charity search organizations like Charity Navigator and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance
  • Use a credit card and keep a record of your donation
  • Watch out for high-pressure from scammers


6. Beware of Porch Pirates.  Getting packages delivered to your home? Consider setting up a camera or scheduling deliveries to help keep them safe. You may also want to consider shipping them to an alternate address if you will be away.

Overall, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be a fun time to get gifts for people you love. It’s the official start of the holiday season, and with a little caution, you can keep your spirits high while avoiding falling victim to a cybersecurity attack.


Choosing the right insurance agent is one of the most important decisions you will make. The Turner Agency, Inc. is a local Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina.  Serving the Upstate of South Carolina and beyond since 1962, we offer a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs for your business, homes, automobiles, recreational vehicles, secondary homes, and more. 

The information in this article was obtained from Turner team member Bill Suchanek, Frankenmuth Insurance, and various sources and is not all inclusive regarding the subject matter. This content is offered for educational purposes only.