Tips for Traveling and Shopping Safely This Holiday Season

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday around the corner, it can be tempting to buy discounted items on impulse. Before getting caught up in a “while supplies last” frenzy, remember that scammers capitalize on hasty decisions involving payment information. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network data, online shopping scams were the second most common fraud category reported by consumers in 2021. Follow these online shopping tips to get what you pay for this holiday season.

  1. Shop only on known, legitimate websites and shopping platforms.
  2. Look for https: in the address bar; its absence indicates a scam.
  3. Avoid making purchases on social media platforms.
  4. Use trusted payment methods. Use a credit card or an electronic payment service such as PayPal as an intermediate step in the transaction for an added layer of protection. Wire transfers and cash apps such as Venmo don’t offer buyers protection. Avoid paying with a debit card for the same reason. Distrust sellers who only accept cryptocurrency.
  5. Don’t click on links or attachments from unknown sources.
  6. Don’t provide personal information for an unexpected delivery.

Whether you’re staying home or traveling for the holidays, please protect yourself and the WashU community. Remember the following travel tips to stay safe:

Travel Light

  1. Lighten your load and minimize the chance that a device will be lost or stolen by traveling with only what you need.
  2. If you plan to travel with your device, offload sensitive data before leaving. Save your files in WUSTLBox or OneDrive before leaving and remove them from your device. Remember to check your Downloads folder and Trash for files containing sensitive and protected information.
  3. If you’re a faculty or staff member traveling for university business, consider using a loaner laptop for travel. These devices are encrypted to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to private or proprietary information.

Practice Public Prudence

  • Minimize the use of public Wi-Fi. Unencrypted data transmitted over public networks can leave you vulnerable to “man-in-the-middle attacks” in which a cybercriminal intercepts your data.
  • Consider using mobile data instead of public Wi-Fi. 5G, 4G, and 4G LTE connections are typically encrypted.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and “Wi-Fi auto-join” to avoid accidentally reconnecting to public Wi-Fi.
  • If public Wi-Fi is your only option, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your Wi-Fi connection. The VPN will shield your activity from cybercriminals and eavesdroppers, making your public connection private. Read about connecting to WashU’s VPN at
  • Avoid public USB charging stations. These stations may download malware to your device or steal your data. Instead, use your personal charging cable at an AC power outlet, portable charger, or external battery.

Register Your Trip

  • If you’re traveling for university business, be sure to register on MyTrips International Travel Registry. Doing so will allow the university to help you in case of a problem or emergency. Registration is required for faculty and staff requesting a loaner laptop.
  • U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad should register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Also, be sure to check the Department of State website for travel advisories and information about how your devices may be screened during a border control check.

If your WashU device is lost, stolen, or compromised during travel, contact the Office of Information Security at