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Close to home with Mary Beth Breckenridge

Shopping online? Take steps to safeguard your packages and personal information

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: December 11, 2013

Online shopping is on the rise this season, and so is the risk of porch pirates stealing your packages or even your identity.

Take steps to protect both with these tips from Nim Traeger, vice president of casualty services in the risk control department of Travelers Insurance:

-- Check out the retailer’s delivery options. The seller may allow you to choose a specific day or even a time when the package will be delivered, so you can make sure someone will be home.

That option may increase your delivery fee, but look at it as paying for peace of mind, Traeger said.

-- Request emailed delivery alerts. Some carriers even provide tracking information that tells you where your package is all through the shipping process. If you know when the package will be delivered, you can make plans to be home or ask a trusted neighbor to pick up the package for you.

-- You might want to ask the delivery company to hold the package at a pickup facility instead of delivering it to your home. Then you can retrieve the package from the facility on a day off or on the way home from work.

-- Another option is to specify that the package can’t be delivered without someone signing for it.

-- If your employer allows it, have your packages delivered to your workplace. “You probably want to ask your employer first if it’s OK,” Traeger said.

-- Buy only from online merchants that have secure, trusted sites. Don’t assume big companies have secure sites, Traeger said. Instead, look for the lock icon on the screen that indicates a site is secure.

-- When you’re done placing your order, log out of the merchant’s site completely rather than just closing the screen. And don’t leave a web browser open for hours after you’ve entered personal information. If the merchant’s site is compromised during that time, your information may be vulnerable.

-- Decline merchants’ offers to remember your personal information. The convenience isn’t worth the risk of having your identity stolen.

-- When shopping online, keep track of which credit cards you use. At the end of the season, reconcile your purchases against your credit card statement to make sure there are no fraudulent charges.

Even if you’re not in the habit of looking carefully at your statements, “this might be the statement to take a look at,” she said. This time of year, statements can be much larger than normal, so erroneous charges are less likely to jump out at you.

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