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Stay smart while holiday shopping online

People are predicted to spend just under $1,000 this holiday season on friends and loved ones, according to the National Retail Federation. This amount is slightly less than what was spent during the 2019 holiday season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most consumers are expected to do some or all of their holiday shopping online.

Financially, there may be a smaller holiday budget for some shoppers as many people continue to look for work, including part-time holiday jobs.

Much of the 2020 holiday gift shopping will more than likely involve searching for online shopping, and as BBB reported recently, so will the prevalence of online purchase scams. Online purchase scams ranked among the top three riskiest scams for the last three years, according to the 2019 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report published in March 2020, shortly after COVID-19 shut down much of the economy.

Experts are predicting at least a 35 percent increase in e-commerce sales allowing retailers to enhance online offerings much earlier than the traditional Black Friday deals. For consumers, this also means more reading, researching, and checking on both the products and the sellers.

BBB recommends the following tips to “Shop Safe, Shop Smart” this holiday season: -- Research before you buy. Out of the 57 percent who did not research the website or business via an independent source (*like before making a purchase, 81 percent lost money.

-- If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase, then lost money was price. Don’t shop on price alone.

-- Beware of fake websites: Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, search for contact information, and read online reviews.

-- Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Respondents reported that website photos motivated them to engage with scammers, especially for pets/pet supplies, clothing/accessories, and vehicles.

-- Make sure the website is secure. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “http” – it is NOT secure.

-- Be careful purchasing sought-after products, especially during the holiday season.The risk of online purchase scams rises during the holidays because more people are making online purchases, and scammers offer the most popular products for the season at great prices.

-- Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering exactly what you want at enticingly low prices.