How to Vet Holiday Deals and Avoid Scams

This year's holiday shopping season has been characterized by increased stress and scarcity due to shipping delays, supply chain problems and fears about the pandemic. This could cause some people to fall for fake deals or purchase products that aren't what they expect.
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These are the top Black Friday deals that you can avoid and how to find the best holiday bargains this season.

Before you shop

Your best defense against being duped or scammed into purchasing an item that is not what it claims to be is is you.

Know your holiday gift budget before you start shopping. Make a list of what you need. You might be tempted to grab a deal right away because of the unique challenges of holiday shopping in 2021. Do not let fear of missing your must-have product lead to overspending.

According to Amy Nofziger (director of fraud victim support at AARP), scarcity is a persuasive tactic used by both legitimate retailers and scammers. Impulsive purchases are what get us in trouble.

If you are looking for electronic items like a TV or other electronics, make sure to note down the model numbers. This will help you avoid what is known as a derivative model. These products are often only available during holidays and may be similar to what you want. But here's the catch. The catch? These lower-quality versions can be of poorer quality than the ones you see at first.

Nofziger says that it is important to do your research and ensure that the product you are buying is of the same quality as what you expected. Do not let Black Friday's hype cloud your ability to think critically.

Beware of scammers

Scammers constantly invent new ways to scam people, just like the release of a revolutionary gadget.

These scams can be avoided once you have your shopping list completed.

Adverts on social media

Be on the lookout to scam ads as you scroll through your Instagram and Facebook feeds. Scammers may be using social media platforms to lure you with offers for trendy sneakers or the latest gaming console.

Nofziger says that we hear of people buying an item they see on social media and not receiving it or getting something completely different. The vendor will not respond.

What you can do: Check out any company you see advertised on social media. This includes checking the website to verify its legitimacy, verifying if it has a physical address, and verifying that it sells more products then the one advertised. A scam advertisement may not meet any of these criteria.

Check out customer complaints, even if the company appears legitimate. To see what customers have to say about the company, Google its name and the word complaint. Consumer Reports is a useful resource.

When shopping online, make sure to use your credit card. Credit cards offer greater protection against fraud than debit cards or peer-to-peer payments. A scam company might ask you to pay with a gift card, or through a peer-to–peer payment company such as Venmo or Cash App.

Phishing emails with hyper-targeted messages

An email is sent to you with a special deal just for your account. You are eligible for a special deal because you have shopped at certain retailers, according to the email. You might have just bought a car and received an email saying that you had been selected to receive a discount for its accessories. You click on the retailer's landing page and enter your personal data.

Rob Shavell, CEO, of the online privacy company DeleteMe, said that scammers can send personalized emails to trick you into providing your login credentials and banking information. Even the email and landing page could be mocked up so that they look exactly like the original retailer designs.

Shavell says these [scam email] campaigns are fuelled by consumer data sets. Data brokers can collect your personally identifiable information (or PII), which includes your name, address, and social media posts. These data sets are then sold to scammers or others.

According to DeleteMe the number of PII online has more than doubled between 2018 and 2020. Scammers can easily send these personalized emails because there is so much information about you online.

What you can do is: Look out for emails with an inordinate amount of personalization. Before clicking on any links, verify that the sender has been verified.

Shavell says that people tend to be very indecisive when it comes to shopping emails. You will likely double-check any email you receive from your bank. A shopping deal is rarely something that a consumer will double-check.

Scammers may be able to imitate the look of emails from retailers, but they cannot hide their email address. To verify the source of any promotional emails you receive, make sure to check the sender's email address before clicking on any links. In the hope that you will not notice, scammers might use an email address with a single letter that is different from the real one.

No matter what type of scam you may encounter, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general.

Get Nab (real), deals whenever you can

You have your shopping list prepared, your budget in place, and you are ready to go. Then, grab holiday deals as soon as possible.

Vicki Morwitz is the Bruce Greenwald Professor of Business at Columbia University and professor of marketing at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. She believes that consumers interested in these deals would be better off shopping sooner due to supply chain shortages. We expect shipping to be slower this year, as products may not be available later.

Morwitz states that sales will not be as good as last year. Instead, you can expect to see deals pop up sooner and over a longer time period.

Nofziger says that if you've done your research, and it meets these criteria, then you should go for the great deal.

You should also learn the proven methods to find the best online deals. You don't need to have a budget, but coupons are a great way to save money and earn rewards for shopping.

Sean Pyles writes for NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @SeanPyles

NerdWallet originally published the article How to Vet Holiday Offers and Avoid Scams