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BBB: Put these shopping tips on your nice list for this holiday season as you plot spending strategies

By Mallory Weidenbacher
Better Business Bureau

Black Friday and its popular sidekick Cyber Monday mark the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

According to a Deloitte study, this year’s holiday retail spending is expected to exceed $1.1 trillion—almost $1500 per household.

Mark your list, check it twice.

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving, Americans are plotting their holiday shopping strategies. You can bag the best bargains while also staying safe by keeping the following tips from BBB in mind:

● Research the items you have your eye on—and their ads—before adding them to your holiday shopping list. Read product reviews, inspect sales fliers and compare prices before making a decision. Be cautious of ads that offer steep discounts. An ad may show an item for 75% off, but the original price could be inflated. Some retailers also may offer an additional percentage off your purchase, but could exclude certain deals or items such as “doorbusters.” Read the fine print!

● Be aware of return policies and warranty information. Be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs, and/or warranties to the person who will use the item. Gift receipts are an easy way for recipients to return or exchange a gift, but make sure the item is able to be returned before purchasing.

● If you plan to do the bulk of your shopping on Cyber Monday, beware of phony websites. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that appear to belong to trusted retailers. Check the website for red flags, such as spelling and grammatical errors, or lack of legitimate contact information. If a business is selling a heavily sought-after item online at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

● Take an extra step to safeguard your privacy online by making sure your antivirus software is up to date. Also be sure you’re shopping on a secure website. Secure URLs begin with “https.” Never enter personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure websites.

● Consider doing your shopping with a credit card. If any shady charges pop up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer this same protection.

And as always, before making your list and checking it twice, visit BBB.org for the Business Profiles of the stores you want to visit, and read what other customers have experienced.

Mallory Weidenbacher is the Ad Review & Investigations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics by reviewing local advertising and investigating marketplace concerns about business practices.

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