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Attention, Holiday Shoppers: Keep Your Data Safe Online

Holiday shopping in the time of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly driven more and more consumers online and changed their social and purchasing behavior — namely, in terms of social visits, purchases, and banking.

With the holiday shopping season approaching, consumers will be making more purchases than throughout most of the year and scammers will be ready for them.  

spinner image Holiday Shopping During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Key Findings

  • As the pandemic has driven more people online to shop, survey findings show that U.S. adults are not well informed about online shopping safety — most respondents failed the 10 question quiz with only 15% of respondents able to answer seven or more questions correctly.

  • More than a quarter (27%) of U.S. adults are not concerned about the safety of their personal and financial information when shopping online.

  • Gift cards remain a hot commodity and nearly two-thirds (63%) of U.S. consumers plan to buy them this year for family and friends. It is safest to purchase gift cards online directly from the retailer or other issuers because cards on store racks can be tampered with. More than a third (36%) of U.S. adults report that they have given or received a gift card with no balance on it.

  • Consumers intend to use debit cards (74%) and P2P apps (69%) to buy holiday gifts online, but credit cards and digital wallets are the better choices to avoid fraud losses.

AARP's Fraud Watch Network is available to all consumers with tips on how to avoid scams and fraud this holiday season ​and all year round.


The survey was conducted between October 14, 2020 and October 26, 2020 by ANR Market Research Consultants (ANR). ANR completed 1,005 telephone interviews (350 via landline telephones and 655 via cell phone).  Respondents were screened to be U.S. residents age 18+ who use the internet at least occasionally and shop for gifts, food, decorations, etc. specifically for a holiday or other sorts of observances during the holiday season. All data have been weighted by age, gender, and race/ethnicity according to 2018 Census Bureau National ACS statistics.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Sauer at For media inquiries, please contact


Suggested citation:

Sauer, Jennifer, and G. Oscar Anderson. Holiday Shopping in the Time of COVID, Washington, DC: AARP Research, November 2020.

Attention, Holiday Shoppers!

Do you have the shopping safety skills to outwit scammers? Take our quiz to find out how you stack up.