Black Friday, Cyber Monday bargains might have hidden costs

Read the fine print, do your homework, and watch out for ‘too good to be true’ deals

Black Friday—the single busiest shopping day of the year—is almost here. With more consumers making purchases online, the Monday following Black Friday, popularly known as Cyber Monday, has also become one of the top shopping days. In 2018, North Americans spent an average of $415 on gifts and other holiday items over the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, with the most popular items being apparel, toys, books, and video games.

As you prepare to hunt for bargains, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering the following tips to make your holiday shopping experience both productive and enjoyable:

• Make the most of Black Friday deals. Start with a list of items you are looking for and use sale flyers and promotions to find which retailer has the best price. Many stores release their best Black Friday deals and exclusive coupons to people who have subscribed to their emails. However, pay attention to what information you have to provide ito receive these alerts.

• Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only. Be wary of businesses you are not familiar with. Check their Business Profile on, look at their rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, check that the website is secure before you make your purchase. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS://. Another important part of trustworthiness is transparency. If you cannot find a privacy or return policy, contact information, an address, or customer service details, avoid shopping on that platform.

• Think before your click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that do not measure up to the promotional hype.

• Beware of deals that are too good to be true. Unrealistic discounts on electronics, appliances, and high-end designer clothing and accessories are some of the temptations that scammers use to lure in consumers. If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. With extremely low prices, consumers are tricked into making large purchases and sharing their credit card information. In the end, you are likely to get cheap counterfeits or nothing at all.

• Beware of false advertising and phony websites. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer.

• Understand return policies. Store policies may change for Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers, so read the fine print before you buy. You should also get details on exchanges, repairs, and warranties. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closeout” items. Also, make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.

• Use your credit card. It is always best to make online purchases with your credit card. Be wary of businesses and individuals that request payment by wire transfer, prepaid debit or gift cards, cash only, or through third parties. Review your credit card statements regularly so that if any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to detect them early and notify your credit card company. Debit cards do not offer this same protection. Also, be wary of websites that do not offer multiple payment options. It could be a fake retailer harvesting credit card information.

• Look out for fake shipping notifications. With more consumers using online platforms and e-stores to purchase gifts, scammers are impersonating retailers and carriers through phishing emails. Especially after Cyber Monday, look out for emails saying that there is an issue with your order and requesting that you resubmit personal or financial information. Opening these emails or clicking on links within them could give scammers unwanted access to your device or even download malware.

• Keep your antivirus software up to date. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid fraudulent websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.

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