BBB: Black Friday & Cyber Monday

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(KTVI) - With online shopping becoming one of the most popular ways to shop for holiday gifts, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering consumers 10 tips for safe shopping on Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season.

“Online shopping can help you avoid the hassle of parking or standing in line at stores,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “Although it may be convenient, the Internet also is rife with scams that can separate consumers from their money or steal their personal information.”

The BBB’s 10 tips for safe online shopping are as follows:

  1. Protect your computer. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
  2. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://.” You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
  3. Shop trustworthy websites: Look for the BBB seal on the site and click to confirm that it’s valid. New BBB dynamic seals will take you to a site’s BBB Business Review. You also may find the review at www.bbb.org.
  4. Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. Don’t enter that information on unsolicited emails. If a site lacks a privacy policy, it could be a red flag that the site could sell your information without your permission.
  5. Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
  6. Beware of phishing.  Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order, account or a package to lure the buyer into revealing financial information. If you receive such an email, the BBB recommends that you pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm a problem.
  7. Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are any unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have zero-liability policies if someone steals and uses your card number. Check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized charges. Never wire money.
  8. Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page of an order or emails confirming the order until you receive the item and are satisfied.
  9. Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped. The tracking number can help you find a lost order.
  10. Know your rights: Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren’t shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. Consumers also may reject merchandise if it is defective or was misrepresented.

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With stores opening for holiday shopping as early as 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving - and teaser deals available even earlier - Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to consider their budgets and needs before they buy.

During the holiday shopping season, the pressure to buy can seem overwhelming, especially with one-day deals and specials. Consumers need to consider how they’re going to pay for all their purchases when the bills come after the holidays.

“Some deals may look good on the surface, but quantities may be extremely limited or the size of the discount greatly exaggerated,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “By checking prices at several retailers and reading advertisements carefully, consumers can make an educated decision on whether it’s worthwhile to stand in line or miss a good night’s sleep.”

When buying gifts, it’s important to obtain and keep receipts for all purchases in case the recipient needs to return an item. Many stores will provide gift receipts upon request, which allow returns but don’t show the recipient how much you paid for an item.

Be sure to check return and refund policies before you buy. Although some stores relax their return policies during the holiday season, others may require that returns be made within a few days of purchase. Some only allow returns if a product is defective while others may give store credit instead of cash refunds.

If you are buying a gift that needs to be shipped, ask whether shipping is included in the price and when the item will arrive. In some cases, you may be able to save some money and hassle by buying from a store’s website rather than standing in line at a physical store.

While online shopping can be a way to avoid crowded stores, shoppers need to be careful of the sites they patronize. When shopping online, be sure to:

  1. Protect your personal information. Check to see how your information may be used online. When shopping at stores, keep your card out of sight and make sure you get it back and safely in your wallet before you leave the store.
  2. Check the site’s security settings and privacy policy. If the site is secure, its address should start with https://. You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
  3. Know the company’s refund and return policies. Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?
  4. Do not rely on pictures of a product. Read the description and check model numbers, if applicable.
  5. Be cautious of free or very-low-price offers.  Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.
  6. Pay with a credit card. If you suspect fraud or don’t receive your order, you can challenge the charge. It’s also possible to dispute charges to your card.
  7. Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped.
  8. Print out the order or save it on your computer. Make sure you have the documentation page for online orders and save it until the order arrives.
  9. Be aware of phishing. Don’t respond to emails that ask for your credit card or bank account number or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming there is a problem with an order or account to lure you into revealing financial information. Call the company or find the customer service form on the company website to confirm any problem.

Toy safety is a concern for many parents. Make sure any toys you buy are appropriate for the age of the child. If possible, inspect toys carefully to look for sharp edges that may cut, moving parts that can pinch or small, removable pieces that can be a choking hazard. Toy chests should have air holes, and fabric products should be flame-resistant. Check for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electric toys.

Check a company’s BBB Business Review before you make a purchase by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.