Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent consumers a list of 12 holiday shopping tips to not only help you be a smarter shopper, but to also keep your information more secure. Some of these may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday chaos and unintentionally overspend or unknowingly give to a charity that’s actually a scam. Follow the FTC’s advice to be sure you have the happiest holiday possible.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Make a list whenever you go out shopping, and don’t buy anything that’s not on your list – this will help you stick to your budget. Wrapping paper, bows, gift tags, and tape aren’t cheap, so don’t forget to include those in your budget, plus any money you might spend on food, parking, etc. while you’re out shopping.
- Read product reviews to make sure you’re getting a quality item. The FTC suggests reading and comparing reviews on several sites. I’ve personally found that checking reviews on Amazon is sufficient for most items, but do plenty of research for large purchases.
- Mobile shopping apps are helpful, but the FTC cautions that some may gather and share your information for third parties. It’s always helpful to read reviews of apps too, and make sure they keep your information secure.
- If you’re planning to give a gift of jewelry, take time before you go out looking to read the FTC’s guide for buying jewelry. This will help ensure you’re getting a quality piece for your loved one.
- Watch closely as the cashier rings up your items. Sometimes the price on the shelf is inconsistent with the price that shows up on the computer, and this could cost you – so pay close attention to make sure you’re paying what you intended to pay!
- Save your receipts. This includes receipts for online orders as well, plus any packing or return information that may have come in the box.
- Watch out for free downloads, like ecards and holiday screen savers that might contain spyware. Keep your anti-virus and
anti-spyware up-to-date in order to keep your information secure.
- If you get charged for an item you never received, here’s what to do about it.
- Just like you would keep cash secure in your wallet, put your gift cards in a safe place right away too. Unlike a credit card which can be canceled and replaced if lost, you’re usually out of luck if you lose your gift card.
- Help the environment by shopping for “green” items, but make sure you understand the claims on the label before you buy.
- Don’t give your credit card information to anyone. You probably haven’t won a free holiday vacation or a free iPad, so don’t
fall for any of those scams to get your personal information.
- Many people are eager to help others during the holidays, and unfortunately scammers like to take advantage of these people. Before donating to a charity you’re unfamiliar with, do some research to be sure it’s legitimate. Better yet, give to an organization you know is reputable.
If you think you’ve been the victim of holiday fraud, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-382-4357.