Avoid holiday Grinches: Top 10 tips from the Better Business Bureau

The holiday season is upon us and so are Grinches and Scrooges out to take your money by unsavory means.

  • Dec. 17, 2011 3:00 p.m.

The holiday season is upon us and so are Grinches and Scrooges out to take your money by unsavory means.

Whether you are online or in a store, BBB advises consumers to be on the look-out for scammers, and know the company’s policies before you pay.

“This gift-giving season puts a lot of pressure on people to get the perfect gift,” says Lynda Pasacreta, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland British Columbia.

“Consumers need to stay vigilant against financial crimes and avoid companies which have a troubling complaint history. These are the Grinches that can steal your Christmas.”

The BBB encourages you to take steps to avoid common problems such as items that can’t be returned, gift cards that can’t be used and orders that never arrive.

1. Think twice before clicking a link sent to you via email: These links could lead to viruses and allow Grinches to get your personal and banking information. Instead independently find the sites you want to shop on and check www.mbc.bbb.org for safe websites and stores.

2. Remember that criminals and scammers don’t take a holiday: Also make sure to check out the businesses privacy policy before giving out personal information. If shopping online be sure your computer has the most up to date anti- spyware: so that little Grinch fingers can’t get at any of your personal information.

3. Keep all your receipts and read the fine print: Online businesses are required by law to send you your product within 30 days unless otherwise stated or you do get your money back. Before you find yourself crying Grinch, understand that refund and exchange policies can differ significantly from one seller to another. Even Santa can’t return a gift if it isn’t identified as one on the receipt.

4. Pay with a credit card, instead of cash or bank card: If it’s a scam you’ll have record of it and are more likely to get your money back, dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item, or dispute charges made to your account. No other form of payment offers this. Also make sure to check your credit card statements often and not just when your bill comes in.

5. Beware of gift card scams: Con artists can get important numbers off of the gift cards before you have even bought them by scanning the identifying number before hand. They can then go onto the website and see when it is activated, once activated they can use your gift card to purchase items. Instead ask for gift cards behind the counter instead of the ones displayed and use your gift cards as soon as possible.

6. Don’t leave your purchases in plain sight in your car: The holidays are a car thief’s prime time to break in and steal your purchases. So either remove your purchases from your car or make sure they are out of sight. Unlike the Dr. Seuss story those gifts wont be returned by the Grinch to your car because his heart has suddenly grown.

7. Verify validities of charities: The sneakiest Scrooges will often adopt a similar name to known charities, so make sure you do your research and always make out your payment to the charity and not individual solicitors.

8. Make a list and check it twice: Often consumers will head out to the malls and spend more money than intended, so make a list of what you want to spend and keep track of how much you are spending.

9. If going with a layaway plan check out their policy, and if they are BBB accredited: Layaway is an excellent option when paying for something pricier make sure to find out all the details, like how much you need to put down, interest costs, when payments are due, and their return policy so that there are no surprises at the end.

10. Beware of deals that sound to good to be true…they probably are: When shopping online there are hundreds of website offering to beat out the next website with their own deals. Make sure to check if the website is legitimate. Sometimes paying less can often cost you more.

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