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How to shop smart and safe on Black Friday

Updated: December 24, 2012 7:08AM



Consumers who happily brave the crowds and craziness on Black Friday should still remember to keep their wits about them, consumer advocates say.

Remember: Pickpockets like the holiday season, too. And even the most well-meaning sales clerks can make a mistake or fail to give important information about store policies.

Here are some tips to keep your holiday shopping safe and ripoff-free, with thanks to the Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft Resource Center and Better Business Bureau:

◆ Take only the cash, credit and debit cards and identification you absolutely need for this shopping trip and keep it in a zippered purse or secure wallet. The less you carry, the less you can lose.

◆ Use a major credit card if you can. You’ll have more protection if a purchase goes awry than with cash or a debit card. Credit cards also carry less liability for you if your card number falls into the hands of a thief.

◆ Stay organized and keep all your receipts in an envelope marked “holiday gifts.” Ask for separate gift receipts for each item, and don’t forget to get a receipt for every gift card you purchase.

◆ Note the stores’ return policies, including how much time you have to return an item, whether you’ll get cash or store credit, and whether there’s a restocking fee — a common occurrence with electronics. Beware of signs that say “all sales are final” because they aren’t kidding.

◆ When shopping online, be sure to use only legitimate websites that have a secure address for payment starting with https:// rather than http://. Look for a closed yellow padlock at the bottom of your computer screen. Be sure your computer has an updated spam filter and antivirus/anti-spyware software.

◆ Consider online merchants’ shipping rates and time frames when comparing prices. If no shipping date is given, the seller is required by federal law to ship within 30 days (and if there’s a delay, you’re allowed the option of a full refund). There is one exception: If the seller extends credit to you and doesn’t specify a shipping date, they have 50 days in which to ship.

◆ Check the background of unfamiliar merchants at chicago.bbb.org and by checking online consumer reviews.

◆ Examine your credit card and bank statements online frequently during the holidays to catch any fraud or errors as quickly as possible.



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