In 2012 the average American shopper spent $749.52 during the holiday shopping season, with more than half of that going toward gifts and more than half being spent on online shopping, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). McAfee warns that holiday shopping season is prime time for online scammers. Whether you’re heading out to busy shopping malls or shopping from the comfort of your couch, make sure you keep these holiday shopping safety tips in mind.

Avoid Phishing Schemes

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When Sears sends you an email indicating there’s a problem with your account and you need to log on immediately to fix it, don’t. Chances are it’s not Sears, but rather a phishing scheme looking for your credit card number. Never enter personal information in a link provided in an email unless you have verified that the source is legitimate. Call the retailer whenever possible for that verification.

Protect Your Identity When Shopping Online

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Use a credit card, prepaid gift card, or third-party payor like Google Wallet or PayPal for online purchases, because they offer greater protection than your debit card. Add another layer of protection with identity theft security from a company like, which will send alerts when a threat is detected 24/7. Finally, add spyware and virus detectors to your computer, and shop only on Internet connections you trust.

Avoid the Mobs

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Every holiday season, local media report of angry shoppers taking swings at each other and fighting over the latest craze – Cabbage Patch Kids in the ’80s, Beanie Babies in the ’90s, Tickle Me Elmo in the late ’90s. This year, Toys R Us says the hottest toys of the season will be Big Hugs Elmo, xBox One, The Ugglys and Cra-Z-Loom bracelet maker (for the complete list of 15 visit Toys R Us).

Keep Your Purse on Lockdown

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Keep your purse close to your body at all times, or take out your wallet and put it inside your coat or in a front pants pocket. Never allow your credit or debit cards to come out of that purse. When you check out, wait until the cashier asks for it so an enterprising thief doesn’t view your number over your shoulder.

Keep Kids Close

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With the bigger crowds during the holidays comes a greater chance of your child wandering off and getting lost. Keep your kids close to you when you are out shopping, asking them to keep a hand on the cart or using those monstrous carts with the additional seats to keep them strapped in. Teach your kids to look for security officers, salespeople or moms with strollers to ask for help if you get separated. If your child needs to go to the restroom, go with them. Finally, teach kids to scream, kick and fight if someone attempts to abduct them.