Preparations for the holiday season are underway, and many consumers are ready to shop for bargains on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” The Better Business Bureau® serving Central & Eastern Kentucky offers advice to help make your holiday shopping go as smoothly as possible and help you avoid scams.
Retailers are gearing up for the big day – newspapers are stuffed with sale flyers, commercials are promoting the “door buster” deals, and online ads promise the best bargains. Better Business Bureau offers these tips to make your Black Friday shopping experience productive:
- Learn about advertising tricks and gimmicks. Pay close attention to phrases like “beat competitors’ prices”, “up to __ % off”, or “free with purchase,” that require careful examination of terms and conditions. Watch for “asterisks” next to words or phrases, indicating there are conditions to the offer. Learn more at bbb.org/adtruth.
- Read the fine print. Some stores only honor sale ads during a certain time frame, or on certain days. Some stores may only allow you to purchase one item, particularly large, popular and/or deeply discounted products.
- Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping on a legitimate site. Check unfamiliar stores or websites at bbb.org.
- Sign-up for email alerts. Many stores release their best Black Friday deals to people who have signed up to receive their emails. Just make sure it’s the real business and not a scammer. Red flags include receiving such an email when you never shopped with the business or never signed up for email alerts.
- Ask for gift receipts and save warranty information. A gift receipt can be tucked into a gift item so that the recipient can return or exchange a gift if it’s not quite right. Be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs, and warranties to the recipient. Keep in mind that retailers are permitted to set their own return/exchange policies.
Cyber Monday is one of the biggest days of the year for online sales. Online shopping can be easy and convenient…but you can also get scammed if you’re not careful! Better Business Bureau has this advice for online shoppers this holiday season.
- Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, take your time, and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy during the holidays, as some stores have different return policies depending on the item you purchase. If the online merchant also has bricks-and-mortar locations, ask if it is possible to return items to the physical location. Many online orders can be returned for a full refund, but others have restocking fees.
- Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site. Check out bbb.org to read more about stores or websites unfamiliar to you.
- Trust but verify. When shopping online, use retail websites that you trust. Use common sense and avoid deals that seem “too good to be true.” Always check to see where the business is physically located. If the only way to contact it is via email, that’s a red flag. If you’re shopping with an unfamiliar retailer, check it out at bbb.org.
- Use anti-virus software. To ensure your computer and personal information are safe, use anti-virus software on your computer or mobile device and keep it up-to-date. If in public, don’t use websites containing personal information (bank, credit card) on public wi-fi, as that information could be picked up by an identity thief.
- Shop with a credit card. A credit card provides additional protections over a debit card in case of fraudulent transactions. If your card number is compromised, it’s easier to dispute any charges that you didn’t approve. Prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card, but you’ll never lose more than the value of the card itself.
- Make sure websites are secure. Only share personal information and your credit card number with websites that are https (the extra “s” stands for secure) and that have a security lock icon in the task bar.
- Be careful of phishing scams. A popular one at this time of year is an email claiming to be from a package- delivery company with links to tracking information (clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft).
For more information on holiday season topics, visit bbb.org/holidayhelper.