Holiday Shopping Tips from the BBB

December 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Finding the perfect gift during the holiday season is not an easy job. A gift card is a hassle-free present that gives the recipient the opportunity to pick out something they really like or need. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) offers tips on howto choose the best gift card that will suit the recipient.

"When picking out a gift card, like any present, it is important to choose the rightone for the recipient," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the BetterBusiness Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Understand the type ofgift card you are purchasing, in addition to reading the fine print and rules."

Gift card giving has been on the rise for years and according to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend roughly $29.8 billion on gift cards this year. The survey also states that gas station,department stores and restaurants are top choices for gift cards. Gift cards are popular for their convenience and also the freedom they give the recipient.

The BBB offers these tips when purchasing a gift card:
Inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickershave been removed, and that the codes on the back of the card haven't beenscratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the storeselling the cards.

Know the rules. Understand the different types of giftcards: retail gift cards, which can only be redeemed at the retailersand restaurants that sell them; and bank gift cards, which carry thelogo of a payment card network such as American Express, MasterCard or Visa andcan be used wherever the brand is accepted. Checkit out. Make sure you are buying from a known andtrusted source. Always check out a business at http://www.bbb.org/. Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit ormay have been obtained fraudulently.

Read the fine print before buying. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping andhandling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deductedfrom the card after it is purchased?

Provide the recipient with back up. Give the recipient the original receipt in case thecard is later lost or stolen. Also, before you buy retail gift cards, considerthe financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from abusiness that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless. Ifthe business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find anotherlocation where the card can be used.

Treat the gift card like cash. It's important to report lost or stolen cards to theissuer immediately. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost orstolen, while other issuers will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards assoon as possible, because it's not unusual to lose or forget about them. Formore advice on finding reputable businesses around the holidays, visit http://www.bbb.org/.

Better Business Bureau Warns: Phony Websites Pretend to Be Overstock.com

In the past year, Better Business Bureau has shut down more than one hundred fraudulent websites that illegally steal the famous BBB logo and imply they arelegitimate sites. A noticeable trend recently is websites that include the word "overstock" in the domain name, hoping to fool consumers into thinking they are shopping with Overstock.com.

"Overstock.com is a highly visible online retailer, so it's no wonder scammers try to mimic them," noted Carrie A. Hurt, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for 113 BBBs across the U.S. and Canada. "We've seen this with other majorretailers as well. BBB is warning consumers: be careful to look for the real domain when it comes to major retail sites."

"Our web address is simple: overstock.com," said Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice Chairman of Overstock.com, Inc. "That's all. If thename is longer, or uses any additional words, or letters, if it has any wordsother than 'overstock' before the dot com, it's not our website."

Overstock.com is a BBB Accredited Business with an Arating, as well as a National Partner of the Council of Better BusinessBureaus. The company has been recognized by many organizations, includingCompuware as a "Best of the Web" award winner for four years in a row.

BBB suggests the following tips for online shoppers toavoid bogus websites:
Go to bbb.org to look up the BBB Business Reviews ofyour favorite online retailers.
Type the URL directly into your browser; do not click on a linkfrom an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the messageis from the legitimate business.
On the payment page, look for "https" at the beginning of theaddress (the "s" stands for "secure").
Look for "Contact Us" information, including a real address, atoll-free customer service number, and other ways to reach the company if you have a problem.
Use a credit card (not a debit card) when shopping online forgreater protections against possible fraud. If a website has a BBB Accredited Business seal, click on it. Areal seal should link directly to that company's BBB Business Review.

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