"Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday," the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, are the most popular holiday shopping days of the year. Whether heading to the local malls or shopping online to avoid the large crowds, BBB of Upstate New York warns buyers to be aware of scammers and hackers.
"People get caught up in the craze of holiday shopping," said Warren Clark, president of BBB serving upstate New York. "Whether it's 'Black Friday' or 'Cyber Monday,' it is important to take precautions to ensure that scammers do not ruin the holidays."
BBB offers its top five 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 BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business that will guarantee the sale prices it claims to have.
•Compare the deals - Not only are there are dozens of "Black Friday" websites claiming to capture the best deals around, but a smart phone can really help with comparative price shopping in stores and online.
•Maximize advance alerts - Do you have favorite retailers? Now is a good time to sign up for their email alerts and "Like" their Facebook page. BBB-accredited businesses and other stores are working to reward your loyalty and you may get a jump on special offers.
•Know store return 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 at a lower price.
Online shopping tips for 'Cyber Monday'
•Shop with trust online - Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's business review for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely recognized "trustmarks" on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm they are valid. If you can't find information about the retailer and a method to contact them, move on.
•Beware of deals that sound too good to be true - Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails can often sound too good to be true - especially extreme 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. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
•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 whether 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 cardholder 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 email. The BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any emails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the U.S. and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. Visit bbb.org for more information.