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Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are the biggest retail and online shopping days of the year. While there are many great deals to be had it is important to do your homework to make sure you protect your holiday budget. The following tips will help ensure you are able to focus on holiday fun rather than legal disputes with retailers or losing money to scammers.
  1. Beware of pricing that is too good to be true. Check reviews on greatly discounted items to make sure they do not have major problems. A $250 TV might not seem like such a good deal if it does not make it to 2015. Online scammers often set up dummy websites, auction listings or ads that offer popular items far below market value. These scammers will kick into high gear for Cyber Monday. Trust your instincts and beware of scam sales.
  2. Read and save a dated copy of the retailer’s return policy. Many sales disputes stem from misunderstandings over return or refund policies. Make sure you read and understand the return policies before making a purchase. Some returns will require costly restocking fees and some sale items may not be eligible for return. Also, find out if you are responsible for shipping costs on a return item, as larger items could be costly to ship.
  3. Do your homework on extended warranties. Many products already come with a manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, your credit card company may already offer protection. Make sure you understand what the warranty covers and what is excluded. Consider the cost of the warranty versus the potential benefit.
  4. Check your bank account frequently. Incorrect or fraudulent charges are easier to miss when spending increases around the holidays. Save all of your receipts and review them along with your bank and credit card statements to make sure everything is accurate. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you notice any irregularities.
  5. When shopping online use trusted retailers. It is important to make sure you are on the correct website by checking the domain name in the browser. Sometimes emails or online ads promising great deals will actually direct you to scam sites designed to look like a trusted retailer. The domain name at the top of your browser should contain https://. Use unique and secure passwords when setting up online accounts.
  6. Review marketplace seller rating information and negative feedback from previous buyers. Marketplace websites allow a wide range of individual sellers to offer products to a large audience. Many of these sites allow previous customers to rate their experience with a particular seller. Exercise caution when dealing with sellers who have an excess of poor feedback. Check the specific feedback to see what those who complained had to say.
  7. Keep payment information secure. Never pay for items purchased online with wire transfers, money orders or cash. These types of payment offer no tracking or protection in the event of a scam. When making an online payment for goods use a credit card, PayPal, Google Checkout or another secure online payment system. Some payment systems offer additional dispute resolution options.
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