If you are experiencing an unusually rushed holiday season, you’re not alone. With a holiday shopping season which is nearly one week shorter than normal, many of us are scrambling to complete our holiday “to do lists” within a condensed amount of time.

BBB reminds consumers that although our plates are full during this cramped holiday season, it is still important to take time to make educated decisions before making purchases, particularly when shopping online.

“Although the convenience of shopping online has an incredible amount of appeal during a busy season, keep in mind there are many fraudulent retailers/sellers online,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said.

“Remember the best way to have a happy shopping experience is to do business with reputable companies who you can trust.”

BBB offers the following tips to consider when shopping online:

  • Never rush to make a purchasing decision. When shopping online, be sure to take your time. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites.
  • Read the fine print. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Review the return policy. While many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.
  • Only make purchases from reputable stores and websites. Many consumers have reported receiving fake or watered-down products when purchasing from “discount” vendors. The safest way to avoid getting scammed when purchasing toys is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust.
  • Don’t be fooled by extra-low prices. Unreasonably low prices are a red flag for a scam on many products. Avoid making a purchase from a retailer you aren’t familiar with just because the price sounds too good to be true
  • Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.
  • Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.

Reconcile your financial statements. Match up your receipts with your financial statements to make sure they match up. For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.