As Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday bring major deals to the Chicago area this weekend, the Better Business Bureau provided tips to shop wisely.
According to the BBB, Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 by American Express credit card company, and encourages shoppers to support local businesses and independent retailers.
Here are some ways to make the most of Saturday deals:
- Invite friends and family to join in on the shopping
- Eat locally, too
- Get involved in community events
- Research local shops before going out
- Connect with businesses through social media and post using #ShopSmall
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Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, brings an additional threat for online scams, according to the BBB.
“The few days after Thanksgiving offer holiday shoppers great savings opportunities, but be aware that con artists will be working very hard to deceive you out of your hard-earned money,” says Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Bernas advised shoppers to be aware of phony emails, misleading ads, fake websites and "too-good-to-be-true prices."
Here are ways he said should keep savings high and personal information secure:
- Beware of false advertising and phony websites. If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. Make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers.
- Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only. Be wary of businesses you aren’t familiar with. Check their BBB Business Profile on BBB.org, look at the rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, be sure any web page you purchase from is secure. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://. Never put personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure web pages.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.
- Price check before you buy. Dozens of online retailers will claim they have the best price on an item, but their offers can be misleading. Do your homework by comparing prices. Remember that the best deal may not be the real deal.
- Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Check your credit card rewards program for special point offers that could add up on Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. Make purchases using loyalty programs; many major retailers offer them.
- Use your credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer this same protection. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.
- Understand return policies. Online store policies may change for Cyber Monday offers. Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you would like to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closeout” items. Make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Busy schedules and increased purchases make it easier to miss – and fall victim to – a phishing scam. Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, calls, or letters. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. Ignore suspicious correspondence and calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.
To report a scam to the BBB, visit the BBB ScamTracker.