While Black Friday may represent the official start to the holiday shopping season for many consumers, there are many people who are already scouring online sites to get good deals on products for their friends and family. To help in that effort, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a blog post with various tips to keep in mind.
Shameka Walker, an attorney with the FTC’s Division of Consumer & Business Education, says that holiday shopping has taken on a new shape this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because of COVID-19, it’s likely that we’ll be going online to look for those perfect gifts. With so many deals around and what seem like eternal ‘Black Friday’ sales, it’s important to keep some online shopping tips in mind,” she said.
Holiday shopping tips
Walker says one of the most important things to do if you’re planning to shop from home is to make sure your computer is outfitted with up-to-date antivirus software. Computer security, in general, is something that the FTC takes very seriously, and it has published a comprehensive list of things consumers can do to make sure their cybersecurity is up to snuff.
ConsumerAffairs also has several resources focused on helping consumers protect themselves against threats like identity theft.
Other tips Walker provides include things that consumers can do when doing their actual shopping to ensure that they’re getting the best deal and keeping themselves safe. They include:
Taking time to compare products. If you know that there’s a product out there that you’ll want to get for the holidays, don’t be content to buy it from the first source you look at. Shopping around can allow you to save money that can be used for other gifts or to sock away for a rainy day.
Checking out sellers. Going hand-in-hand with comparing products is the necessity of checking out who is selling you a product. Sites like ConsumerAffairs can allow you to look up reviews about a company to ensure that you’re buying from a legitimate source.
Looking for coupon codes. There’s more than one way to get a good deal. While steep discounts are always nice, finding an eligible coupon can be another way that you can increase your savings.
Paying by credit card. Paying for online purchases with a credit card gives consumers protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This allows you to dispute certain charges and limits the amount of money that a hacker or scammer can potentially steal from you in the event of a cybersecurity lapse.
Using secure checkout. You’ll want to make sure that the site you’re using to buy a product is protected by enhanced security protocols. One easy way to check for this is by checking the site’s URL and seeing if it starts with “https.” The “s” in that case stands for “secure,” which means you can have more confidence when it comes to entering your information.
Keeping records of transactions. Keeping a running tab of the products you’ve ordered will give you an easy checklist once packages start coming in. If you notice there’s something missing, you can contact the vendor early on to resolve the issue.