The Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers to be savvy when they’re hunting for holiday gifts.
The BBB of the Coastal Carolinas created a holiday shopping guide with suggestions to help people make smart money decisions while shopping for the holidays and giving donations.
“‘Tis the season to go shopping,” said BBB Coastal Carolinas President and CEO John D’Ambrosio. “There are all kinds of things that could go wrong if consumers are not careful. This is the time of year when a lot of scammers come out.”
D’Ambrosio’s number-one suggestion for protecting shoppers: shop locally.
“It’s just smarter business to do business locally,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea to shop local whenever you can. Because the people that you shop with at that point in time are the people that you see in town, you see in the restaurants you go to. You see them in church.”
D’Ambrosio said the BBB has resources available to help consumers. More than five million accredited businesses are listed on BBB.org. If shopping online, check that the retailer’s website is secure by noting if the web address has “https:” in it. Fake sites also try to scam customers by mimicking the domain name for a legitimate retailer.
He also recommends using a credit card for any online purchases, since it offers better protection than a debit card.
If you see an advertised deal, make sure you read the ad closely before you head out to the store.
“You’ve got to read ads very carefully,” he said. “Make sure you know what’s really being offered in terms of the sales when you go to shop.”
And you don’t have to go too far to find those same deals, D’Ambrosio said.
“Sometimes the best deals are not at the big box stores,” he said. “Sometimes the deals are at local shops with local owners and there’s a lot of local owners that I’ve seen over the years that match big box store or internet prices.”
If you’re planning on donating to a charity, D’Ambrosio suggested giving to a local charity where your money will be effectively used rather than making an online donation. The BBB also lists legitimate charities online. You also can check charities operating in South Carolina at the Secretary of State’s website. There’s also an online complaint form to report a charity if you suspect it is operating illegally.