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Be a safe and savvy shopper to get the best from Black Friday

The busiest shopping day of the year is almost here, and scammers are lying in wait
Black Friday can be a chance to get some great deals, but savvy shoppers need to do their homework to avoid unpleasant surprises. (Photo credit: Better Business Bureau)

One of the busiest shopping weekends of the year is nearly here. Black Friday falls on Nov. 24 this year, and is followed by Cyber Monday on Nov. 27. Canadians will be trying to get the best bargains possible, with the average Canuck planning to spend around $860 on holiday purchases, according to the latest report from the Retail Council of Canada.

This ties in with what the council found from Canadian consumers who were surveyed, with 88 per cent of respondents saying they were adopting proactive holiday shopping techniques this year. This includes looking for sales (52 per cent), preparing in advance (41 per cent), and sticking to a budget (40 per cent).

However, the Better Business Bureau warns shoppers to beware this holiday season.

“With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, and inflation continually nibbling away at our budgets, it’s time to be extra savvy with our shopping,” says Aaron Guillen, marketing and communications specialist for the BBB serving Mainland BC and Yukon.

“With a few smart shopping moves, you can not only protect your wallet, but also bring joy to your loved ones’ faces with the perfect gift for them this holiday season.”

The BBB offers several tips to help you be prepared to make the right purchase on Black Friday (and beyond):

* Do your homework: Check the ads, check the competition, and check the flyers to find the best deal on specific items. If you’re looking online, be wary of click-bait ads. The best deal isn’t always the real deal: if the product is too cheap, compared with other vendors, it’s probably too good to be true.

* Check the return policy: Before purchasing, make sure you understand the vendor’s return/refund policies. Whether you’re shopping online or at a physical store, be aware that return policies can change during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Always read the fine print before making a purchase: some items labeled as “final sale” or “closeout” may not be returnable, so familiarize yourself with the return or exchange policy for the specific item you plan to buy.

* Watch out for false or misleading ads: If you’ve signed up for email alerts from a store or vendor, be sure it’s legitimate. This is especially crucial before you purchase something. Scammers will often create lookalike websites to deceive shoppers into thinking they’re legitimate, so ensure that the website has the correct spelling of the business’s name, legitimate contact information, and customer service numbers.

* Use secure and traceable transaction methods: When shopping online, it’s safest to use a credit card, as most financial institutions will allow you to dispute charges with your credit card company if there’s an issue. Debit cards don’t provide the same level of protection. Avoid making purchases with prepaid credit cards or e-transfers, or by wiring money to online sellers.

* Be a savvy online shopper: Make sure the website of the site you are purchasing from is encrypted with “https://” in the URL, and that the URL is legitimate and not a spoofed version (i.e. the correct URL is, not Do not shop online using public Wi-Fi, and avoid clicking on links if you don’t know where they’re from. Be wary of slick pop-up ads; if you want to check out a pop-up ad, make a note of the company name and go to their website. Also take a look to see what other shoppers have said about a company: if people are complaining about shoddy products, non-delivery of goods, and lack of customer service, take your shopping dollars elsewhere.

Also be aware of fake delivery invoices purporting to come from Canada Post, UPS, or Amazon. They will allude to your order being “stuck in transit”, and urge you to click on a link and/or input information, such as a credit card or Social Insurance Number.

Is the introduction general (“Dear Customer”), and does the message contain bad grammar and spelling? If so, delete the email, and do not click on any links or provide any information. If in doubt, go to the site where you placed your order and check there for any updates.