Holiday shopping online? Why you need to be extra careful this year

As American consumers continue to spend more money online, identity thieves are following suit.

Online credit card fraud attempts are expected to increase 43 percent in the U.S. this year, according to ACI Worldwide, which provides electronic banking and payment services.

The shift reflects both the general growth in online shopping and a transition by criminals who've been thwarted at brick-and-mortar stores thanks to the implementation of more secure pin cards. By way of comparison, online fraud rates shot up nearly 80 percent in the three years after the switch to secure cards in the United Kingdom.

Related: The 20 Most Expensive Shopping Streets in the US

"Fraud is increasing at a rate nearly equal to general retail growth globally — and is exponentially increasing in the U.S., due to a seismic shift from in-store to online activity," ACI Worldwide chief product officer Mike Braatz said in a statement. "And because fraudulent activity is now considered to be an everyday occurrence, consumers and merchants must take every precaution as we head into peak holiday shopping season."

For consumers shopping online, that means using strong, unique passwords for online accounts, never conducting financial transactions on public Wi-Fi, and signing up for text alerts from your credit card about suspicious activity. If a retailer or financial institution notifies you of a data breach and offers credit monitoring, take advantage of it.

Christmas Eve is expected to be the busiest day for online fraud, as criminals take advantage of trends toward gift card use and the ability to order items for in-store pickup.

Now check out the best money-saving online shopping tips below:

Money-saving online shopping hacks
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Money-saving online shopping hacks

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

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6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy


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