Whether shopping at a local store or online to avoid the crowds, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns buyers to be alert for scammers and hackers looking to benefit from early holiday cheer.
"Holiday shopping will send consumers to stores and online retailers in droves following the Thanksgiving holiday. But there are risks to be avoided," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "Whether you are online or in a store consumers should take steps to protect themselves."
Tips for Black Friday shoppers:
Research before you shop - If you find a great coupon, be sure to print it and bring it to the store with you. Check out Business Reviews at www.bbb.org http://www.bbb.org/ to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business that will guarantee the sale prices they claim to have.
Know Store Policies - Knowing the store policies on returns can help you determine where to buy. Many retailers may include restocking fees and shorter return deadlines.
Ask for Gift Receipts - Gift receipts generally include a description of the item purchased but do not disclose the price paid. Without proof-of-purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging the item or risk receiving an exchange for the current selling price of the item.
Online shopping tips for Cyber Monday:
Shop on trustworthy websites - Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at www.bbb.org http://www.bbb.org/ Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized "trustmarks" on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.
Beware of deals that sound too good to be true - Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a "deal" that might cost them dearly in the end.
Confirm your online purchase is secure - Shoppers should always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, the BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
Pay with a credit card - It's best to use a credit card, because under Federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Keep documentation of your order - After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail. The BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
Don't forget those less fortunate this holiday season. If deciding to donate an item to a charity or cause, make sure items are in good condition and the recipient organization accepts such items to help further its cause. Find all charities that meet BBB standards at www.bbb.org/charity http://www.bbb.org/charity For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season, visit www.bbb.org http://www.bbb.org/