This holiday period, it is anticipated that online shopping will increase, and it means more perils.

In the U.S., the incidence of coronavirus cases is escalating, and this year you may wish to go on a shopping spree if you are still working. After all, the holidays present that time of year for expressing our love for each other by giving presents. You might make decisions with your heart instead of your mind, and this is why I often offer suggestions about how to spend carefully, particularly if you are struggling with debt.

Each year, my advice is that your presence is more important than gifts. This year a pandemic is raging, and it has rendered millions jobless and facing eviction.  Advising them to follow a holiday budget does not apply to people who lack spending money.

A second stimulus payment is essential but as rare as seeing Santa on Christmas Eve, with his eight small reindeer! Last month, a Gallup poll discovered that 28% of Americans intend to use less money on holiday presents, in contrast to 2019. It is not surprising since the economy continues to be fragile due to the recession triggered by Covid-19.

Additionally, the pandemic has split the country into two; the poor and the wealthy.  The latter can shop to the maximum. As expected, online shopping will increase due to Covid-19.

This year you should avoid spreading the coronavirus by avoiding travel and meetings to distribute gifts. We will, therefore, discuss the dangers that exist online and in your email inbox.

Frauds and identity thieves are honing their skills to con people to reveal private data or steal their cash. Most scams are similar; the criminals take advantage of the present happenings to target people, states the global cybersecurity expert and chief security evangelist at ESET (an IT security software and services firm) Tony Anscombe.

The six tips below will protect you this holiday shopping period:

–  Avoid using your debit card. It would be best for you to resist the temptation to use your credit. However, in this instance, you should not use a debit card. When you use a credit card, it is similar to being seated on an airplane in a coach; you do not access first-class accommodation.

A debit card is different from a credit card because it lacks the same air-tight security, warns the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer education specialist Colleen Tressler.

‘We advise consumers to use a credit card, which is safer for paying,’ said Tressler. When you use a credit card to pay for items, you have some protections. If someone uses your credit card without your consent, you are only liable for a maximum of $50. Even in that case, most banks are not going to attempt recovering that money from you.

When you use a debit card, the time taken in withdrawing money from your bank account and the time you made your purchase is short. It means that fake transactions can lead to severe damage fast. You might not get a reimbursement on time to settle your impending bills.

‘You should avoid using your debit card since it enables your bank account to be accessed easily’ said Anscombe. If someone withdraws all you have in your bank account, you may not survive that month,’ he says.

‘If overdraft protection is available for your bank account, they can also steal your savings.’ Anscombe suggests that you should obtain a prepaid debit card for shopping online in the absence of a credit card.

Another suggestion from Anscombe and Tressler is: Use one credit card for online shopping, especially one that has a fairly low credit line.

– Avoid being misled by your careful spending. Even if you long for a discount, avoid becoming a fraud victim. If an email informs you that you can obtain an Amazon gift card at $50, a 20% discount, or a $10 reward, this is false.

Avoid clicking on any links but immediately visit the retail site to check whether the offer is genuine. Be careful as well about fake emails talking of scheduled deliveries.

Not believing all you see is the safest way to be safe. If you have ordered a package and an email comes telling you about a delivery, check the subject heading, then head straight to the online site to track what you bought.

Anscombe also advised forming a ‘burner’ email for your use just when you shop online.

–  Do not be too trusting: When you register for a loyalty program, it is a requirement for you to reveal personal data and your privacy (though we don’t have much of it anymore).

This may later facilitate information breaches.

– Avoid storing your credit card data online. This simple mode of payment may make you vulnerable, said Tressler. It would be best if you used a payment application like PayPal or Apple Pay (third-party), suggests the U.S. PIRG  (Public Interest Research Group)’s consumer campaign director Mike List.

Log out as a guest: It is safer to submit as little information about yourself as possible. If you want to set up an account to buy something, after your purchase, you should delete it, said Anscombe.

Clear the merchant’s history: According to Tressler, the FTC has experienced more grievances from individuals who ordered items online, but they were not delivered. It is partly due to Covid-19 and problems with the supply chain. In some cases, however, it is due to fake retail websites. Scammers and identity thieves have great expertise in creating false websites, attracting people to them with significant discount deals.

If you are conducting an online search and you see a product being sold at a price that is too low compared to other big retailers, it is normally a warning, stated Tressler. Avoid just clicking and purchasing. Search the company’s name and include ’scam’ and ‘complaints,’ she also said.

Shop carefully, it’s dangerous out there.