What many consider to be the most wonderful time of the year is now here, and the Christmas shopping season is in high gear, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday already in the rear-view mirror. Black Friday has become the biggest consumer magnet of the year, with more than 45 per cent of Canadians spending more on this day than on Boxing Day.
Consumers are increasingly utilizing the benefits of online transactions, with 20 per cent of all online shopping for the year taking place from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday. Bargain hunters were out in force, and the shopping will continue through Dec. 24.
Scammers are also out in force at this time of year, trying to take away some of that holiday cheer. Whether you choose to walk from store to store, or shop online from the comfort of your home, here are a few safe shopping tips to keep in mind at Christmas and throughout the year.
“Deals that seem too good to be true are usually just that,” says Karla Davis, Manager of Community and Public Relations at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland BC. “Ridiculously priced or discounted electronics (eg. iPhones at $20) and high-end designer clothing are typically used by scammers to attract consumers, who are seduced into making big purchases and releasing confidential financial information such as credit card numbers. Do not be afraid to research before you buy.”
Beware of unsolicited emails from scammers who target shoppers by using the names of popular and trusted brands. Check website links for very subtle changes to the domain name (for example, www.ebay.com, which is correct, as opposed to www.ebay.ml). Look out for misspellings and bad grammar on websites, and avoid clicking strange links.
Pay attention to the emails you receive the day after you have made an online purchase. Every year, scammers send bulk messages pretending to be from Amazon, Fedex, UPS, and other popular retailers and carriers, requesting that you re-submit personal or financial information due to a supposed issue with your order.
Check the store’s return policy and warranty information before purchasing, whether you’re shopping online or in a bricks-and-mortar store. Be aware that many stores only offer refunds or exchanges for a limited time after purchase, and may restrict the hours that items can be returned or exchanged during the busy Christmas season. Also, ensure you request a gift receipt so that you or the recipient can exchange the gift if there’s a problem.
Use reputable payment portals such as Paypal or Verified by Visa and avoid purchasing items using cash if possible. Making payments with your credit card gives you the best chance of recovery if there is a problem down the road.
Do not send money transfers to people you do not know, and never use public Wi-Fi to do your online shopping. Before sending any personal information over the Internet, ensure the website has “https://” at the beginning of its web address. The “s” indicates that the website is secure for financial transactions and that your personal information will be encrypted.