FTC issues warning to consumers ahead of holiday season

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The agency says scammers, supply chain issues, and the chip shortage will make holiday shopping different this year

What will holiday shopping be like this year with the economy dealing with a chip shortage and supply chain hassles? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says consumers need to take the situation seriously because it could greatly affect the price of certain items, how shoppers will find them, and whether they’ll get them in time.

Retailers are painfully aware of how bad this could be. In a recent KPMG survey of retail executives, 82% of respondents acknowledged that they are either “somewhat” or “very concerned” about inventory shortages.

As a result, the survey reports that retailers are building omnichannel strategies that will allow them to rely on the growing popularity of “last mile” delivery options. Those options include traditional online ordering with delivery included, curbside pickup, ordering online and picking up items in-store, and buying in-store with home delivery.

Five things to do while holiday shopping

In addition to worrying about the chip shortage and supply issues, the FTC says consumers need to look out for scammers who are already setting up fake online shops. To cover all of these issues, the agency laid out five things consumers should do when shopping this holiday season:

Research sellers before you buy. The FTC suggests searching online for the name of the seller and product, plus words like “complaint” and “scam.” You should also read reviews about the seller and their products.

Feed your inner skeptic. Every year, there seems to be one toy that’s higher in demand than everything else. The FTC says if you see an offer for this year’s hottest gift in mid-December from a seller you’ve never heard of, run as fast as you can in the other direction.

Compare products. Shopping for the best deals is bound to save consumers money, and that’s especially important this holiday season. “Even with the chip shortage, shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Comparison shop online, looking at prices, delivery dates, and even discounts or coupon codes,” the FTC’s Carly Johnson suggests.

Pay by credit card. Johnson encourages consumers to use credit cards whenever possible so that charges can be disputed if something goes wrong or a scammer gets involved. “And if someone tells you to pay by wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or by mailing cash, stop and find another seller,” Johnson said. “That’s how scammers tell you to pay.”

Keep records. When you buy something online, print out and save a copy of the order until you get what you ordered and know that you’re going to keep it vs. returning it. 

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