Shop Smart During the Holiday Season

Whether shopping for yourself or a loved one, holiday deals offered throughout the month can be financially beneficial. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection reminds you to keep these tips in mind to shop smart.

tips for Holiday Shopping on a budget

  • Do your research – Look for differences in sales and pricing before shopping online or heading to a brick-and-mortar store.
  • If an item is out of stock, ask for a rain check so you can purchase it later at the current sale price.
  • Sellers must honor the lowest posted price for an item, whether in an ad or on the shelf. Double check that items are priced correctly. If not, politely ask for it to be fixed.
  • Read the fine print. Some sales only apply to limited circumstances. Ask yourself:
    • Are there limited days/hours?
    • Does the sale apply to only certain models or colors?
    • Do you need to buy a certain quantity to get the sale price? Are there limitations on the quantity you can purchase at the sale price?
    • Can you return the sale item? Will you get a full refund?
  • Know the seller’s policy for returns and exchanges, such as who pays return shipping fees.
  • Avoid unnecessary returns by confirming your cart contains what you want to purchase prior to paying.
  • Save all receipts and keep the original packaging and barcodes intact in case you need to return it.

As you search for the best deals and money-saving tricks, scammers are trying to take advantage of your plans through rip-offs and fraudulent schemes.

Be alert for common holiday scams

Delivery notification/shipping scams

  • Fake shipping companies may send messages alerting you to a delivery and threatening to delay unless you ‘verify’ private information. Sometimes there is an attachment to download, usually containing a virus.
  • Do not open these messages or provide any personal information. Contact the company directly using a verified customer service phone number or email address for a shipping status update.
  • Online marketplace scams.

Giveaway scams

  • Some people may get messages claiming they have won a prize, such as a gift card to a major retailer. The catch: you’re asked to pay a small ‘processing fee,’ to complete a survey, or to provide some personal data before claiming it.
  • Prizes do not require fees. Never engage with someone offering gift cards or other goods for “free,” but with strings attached.

Online marketplace scams

  • Some online marketplaces offer the option to buy and sell directly with other users. Scammers may pose as buyers or as sellers, and have a variety of strategies they use to fool you.
  • Be wary of buyers overpaying with checks – this is a sure sign of fraud; do not refund them. Do not pay for items unless the seller can be confirmed as legitimate. Do not give personal information or move the conversation to an off-site channel.

Pet scams

  • Scammers will advertise pets online. When contacted, they claim the pets were already sold, but they know a faraway second seller with more options.
  • Ask for the name and location of the pet’s veterinarian. Contact the vet using publicly available information to confirm the pet really exists. Never pay up-front for pets sold online.

Ticket scams

  • Tickets to popular events can be expensive and in short supply. Watch for unreasonable prices and fake ticket sales.
  • Purchase tickets from official vendors that have established policies for cancellations and refunds.

Reach out to your local Rural Mutual agent to make sure you’re properly protected or visit our Cybersecurity learning center for additional tips on online safety.