NEW YORK (Credit.com) — Projections for holiday retail spending are watched closely every year, with consumer spending during the biggest shopping season of the year seen as a strong indicator for consumer sentiment. While sales growth was sluggish in the wake of the recession, it’s shown strong growth in recent years; in 2011, holiday sales increased by 5.6% over the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, the organization projects a more modest sales growth of 4.1%.
But while overall holiday spending growth tends to bounce around in the low single digits, there’s one thing you can count on year after year: Online shopping will grow like gangbusters. This year, as in past years, the NRF expects that online sales during the holiday season will see double-digit growth. Total online sales are projected to grow 12%, to as much as $96 billion. In a statement, NRF President Matthew Shay attributed the strong growth partly to online retailers improving their offerings on mobile devices.
Whether you’re shopping on a laptop or a tablet, though, it’s important to remember that buying online carries with it certain risks of identity theft and fraud. While the credit card you hand to the cashier can be secretly swiped in a skimming device to steal your info, it’s a lot easier to pull off a similar theft online if you (and the retailer with which you do business) aren’t taking proper precautions.
There are certain warning signs you’re about to be scammed. If your favorite online retailer has had its email database pillaged by hackers, they may try to send you an email purporting to be from that retailer that tries to link you to a phony site that will steal your information. That’s why it’s important to check the sender’s email address and the URL of the website to which it links, as well as heed warnings about expired security certificates.