Holiday Shopping Attracts Frauds

For a tranquil buying experience, click away online, but do it carefully.

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Even before the turkey is turned into next-day sandwiches, shoppers will be making their holiday lists and getting ready to click their way to purchases. E-commerce holiday sales will grow 19 percent over last year to reach $31 billion, according to research firm eMarketer, even though overall retail growth is expected to reach only the single digits.

But not all Americans will shop online with the same peace of mind they brought (one hopes) to the Thanksgiving table. According to a new survey from Unisys, an information technology consultancy, 40 percent of Americans say they are extremely or very concerned with the security of online transactions, and even more—65 percent—say they were extremely or very concerned about people stealing their credit or debit card information.

The good news is that it's easy to alleviate some of that stress. First, the basics: Never click on links inside E-mails from strangers, and don't use obvious passwords on accounts that contain financial information.

But there are also some more sophisticated measures you need to take. Check with your card provider to see if it offers extra protections, such as a unique credit card number for each store or alerts each time a transaction goes through. Carefully check over your statements during the holiday season to make sure no extra charges are slipping in.

Spammers and other wrongdoers ratchet up their activities during the holidays, so being extra careful makes sense. Knowing you're shopping safely—and avoiding those killer lines at the store—will make you feel calmer than a well-stuffed gourmand after the last slice of pumpkin pie.