Filling Santa’s bag of gifts this year is, like most everything else, more challenging. For many the issue is social distancing from fellow shoppers and negotiating the ins and outs of online buying. Job loss during the pandemic is causing some to strain in order to stretch their budget enough to afford what the kids are wanting. These and other factors are making the 2020 gift-buying season like no other. Into the mix are scammers trying to take advantage of these unusual circumstances. Accordingly, your Better Business Bureau (BBB) has advice for consumers trying to keep their balance in the season’s shopping swirl.
Shop safe, shop smart
Black Friday deals have already begun, especially online. An expected 35% increase in e-commerce sales has prompted an earlier offering of the traditional Black Friday bargains. BBB’s advice:
• Do your research. Use bbb.org and other independent sources to check up on that retailer. Pay extra attention to product reviews, especially from proven credible entities such as Consumer Reports.
• Don’t automatically buy the cheapest. Deals that look too good to be true probably are. Impulsive buying based on price without research can actually lead to losing money.
• Don’t fall for fakes. Websites set up by scammers can look like the real thing. Clues to fakery: bad grammar and/or missing contact information. Don’t trust images. Photos can be easily copied from other sites, of products and company logos.
• Check a website’s security. The URL should read “https,” not “http” without the “s,” which stands for “security.”
• Buy highly popular products with care. Scammers know you want them. They advertise low prices on these selected products to get your attention.
• Beware of social media ads. Scammers can know your preferences and tailor their alluring ads to you specifically. So, when you’re scrolling through social media and that ad catches your eye, it may be a scammer who knows where your eye would go.
• Look for the BBB seal. Yes, it could be faked but go to bbb.org, look up the business and verify that it is legit.
• Credit card payments are best. BBB research has shown you are less likely to lose money with a credit card payment. Be careful if you are paying through a digital wallet app, prepaid money card or other non-traditional methods.
• Even tracking information can be faked. Go to the shipper’s website and type in the transaction’s code to see if it’s real. Tracing links provided by scammers can lead you to a fake tracking.
• Slow down. Take the time needed to read fine print regarding return policies. Look to see if there is a restocking fee on returns.
• Privacy policies matter. If they do not explain clearly how your information could be used, avoid that deal.
• Save everything. Email confirmations and receipts should not be deleted until you have received and know you are satisfied with your purchase. That may take some time. Save those emails.
• Always keep your devices updated. Keep up with firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Never ignore updates. Regularly run virus scans on your devices.
You have enough problems with 2020’s challenges. Don’t let online shopping during the holidays (or any time) add to your woes. Shop safe. Shop smart.
Questions or concerns regarding holiday online shopping? Contact BBB at 800-856-2417 or visit bbb.org.