December 21, 2009

Shop Talk

When the going gets tough, America's most affluent shoppers are expected to go shopping. This year, retailers will be counting on the wealthy more then ever to rescue them from a blue holiday.

According to market research firm Harrison Group, households with incomes below $75,000 expect to cut holiday spending 7.6%. Meanwhile, three-quarters of those with six-figure incomes (and median income of $225,000) are expected to spend as much or more than last year. Whether visiting a mall or a Web site, those with the most to spend must remember the added risks that come with year-end shopping--and the heightened danger those risks pose for them.

A luxury car parked in a mall lot, for example, is temptation enough for opportunistic crooks. Yet many overloaded shoppers in the midst of an all-day outing will make matters worse by using their car's backseat to store purchases. If the vehicle is a Mercedes or other high-end car, and the rear-window view showcases bags from Nordstrom and Saks, it's only a matter of time before its alarm system is strenuously tested. Rather than invite that kind of attention, wealthy shoppers should take a car with a spacious trunk, and use it exclusively.

Similarly, when using the Internet to research items they are thinking of purchasing (as seven in 10 Americans now do), the wealthy should consider the possibility that spyware is tracking their every move. If a PC hasn't been updated with the latest security safeguards, there's no knowing who may be monitoring activity in hopes of stealing personal information, and with it, the user's identity. When buying online, all purchases (and thus all exposure) should be confined to a single credit card. It's also wise to use different passwords for each site and change them regularly.

Andrew McElwee is EVP of Chubb & Son and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance.

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