Scam alert for Christmas shoppers

Posted at 7:31 AM, Nov 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-26 13:03:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - It's time once again for the long lines and big deals of  Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Holiday shopping season. But retail experts are warning shoppers to stay smart because scammers like to take advantage this time of year.

"We have to guard our personal information like never before.  It's everywhere; the opportunity for us to get taken," said Tom Gallagher, president of the Better Business Bureau of Richmond.

According to the Deloitte Annual Holiday Survey, 68 percent of smartphone owners plan on making purchases on their mobile devices.

Millions of dollars will be spent online this holiday season, and experts say that opens you up to potential scams.

It's important to know where scams usually originate online.  Gallagher said online purchases, email offers, and money transfer requests are the most prevalent.

That only highlights the importance of being smart while performing web transactions.  There are some steps you can take to make sure you are not getting ripped off:

  • Only buy from websites/companies you recognize and trust
  • If you are not familiar with a company, do an extensive background check on them before turning over your financial information
  • Track consumer feedback on a company
  • No deal is so good that it won't be there tomorrow
  • Use your credit card when making online purchases so that can dispute charges if something happens with your order
  • Always keep any documentation of the purchase

"The bad guys will make it very easy, very attractive for you to do business with them.  Far more attractive and far more of an emotional experience than you might expect," Gallagher said.

For shoppers who will brave the Black Friday lines, industry experts say there are five important factors to think about before heading to the store:

  • Do research before shopping - make sure the business can guarantee any sales they are advertising
  • Compare prices - shop around for which reputable business has the best offer
  • Check out advanced sales alerts - email and Facebook alerts can be a good way to comparison shop
  • Know return policies - whether a store charges a restocking fee or has deadlines on returns
  • Ask for gift receipts on purchases

Gallagher said being smart about where you buy and who you buy from is the easiest way to avoid Holiday scammers.