How to check vacation deals and avoid scams


By Sean Pyles | Nerdwallet

Supply chain issues, shipping delays and lingering fears of the pandemic have injected increased levels of stress and shortages into this year’s holiday shopping season. This could lead some consumers to fall for scams or buy products that don’t quite meet their expectations.

Here’s how to avoid a Black Friday deal that’s too good to be true and how to get the best real deals this holiday season.

Prepare before you shop

You are your best defense against getting ripped off or tricked into purchasing an item that is not what you think it is.

Before shopping, know your budget for Christmas gifts and make a list of exactly what you want. The unique challenges of shopping for the holidays in 2021 – recent supply chain issues, continuing shortages of microchips, and delayed delivery times – might prompt you to strike a deal as soon as you see it. Don’t let the fear of missing out on your essentials lead you to rush shopping.

“Scarcity is a persuasion tactic used by legitimate retailers and also by scammers,” says Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support at AARP. “It’s these impulse purchases that are getting us into trouble.”

For example, if you are looking for electronic devices like a television, include the model numbers of the items on your listing. This can help you avoid what is called a “derivative” model. These products, which are typically only sold during the holidays, may look like the item you have in mind and be listed for hundreds of dollars less. The trap ? These cheaper versions are usually of lower quality, making them a worse deal than it looks at first glance.

“Do your research to make sure this is the product and the quality you expect,” says Nofziger. “Don’t let the Black Friday hype take over your cognitive thinking.”

Know the tricks of the crooks

Like the release of a must have gadget, crooks are continually repeating and deploying new tricks to the masses in hopes of getting your money or personal information back.

Once you have your shopping list ready, protect yourself by knowing these scams.

Social media ads

As you scroll and browse your Facebook or Instagram feed posts, be on the lookout for scam ads as well. Social media companies may not scrutinize all the advertisements on their platforms, so the promotions you see for the latest game console or the trendy sneakers could in fact be scammers bait.

“We hear about people buying an item [they see on social media] and not getting the item, or getting the item and that’s a lot different, ”says Nofziger. “Then the seller will not respond. “

What you can do: Before making a purchase from a business advertised to you in your social media feeds, survey them to see if they are legitimate. This means checking the website to see if it looks trustworthy, researching if the business has a physical address, and checking if it sells more products than what you’ve seen advertised. Failure to meet any of these criteria can be a red flag of fraudulent advertising.

Even if the business is legitimate, take it a step further and check customer complaints. Google the company name plus the word “complaint” to see what consumers have said about it. Consumer Reports can also be a handy resource here.

And when shopping online, use your credit card if possible. This is because credit cards tend to offer some protection against fraud that debit cards and peer-to-peer payment methods do not. If a business asks you to pay using a gift card or peer-to-peer payment company like Venmo or Cash App, that can also be a red flag of a fraudulent business.

Hyper-targeted phishing emails

You receive an email with an exclusive offer, just for you. Because you made purchases from a certain retailer, the email indicates that you are eligible to receive a special offer. Or maybe you just bought a car and you get an email informing you that you have been chosen for a discount on its accessories. So you click on the retailer’s landing page, enter your personal information and – poof – you just got ripped off.

Using treasures of your personal data, crooks send personalized emails that can trick you into giving out your login credentials or banking information, says Rob Shavell, CEO of online privacy firm DeleteMe. The email and landing page can even be simulated to look like the retailer’s actual designs.

“Those [scam emails] are powered by consumer data sets, ”says Shavell. Your Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, which includes things like your name, address, and even social media posts, can be collected by data brokers in consumer data sets and then sold to scammers and to others.

According to DeleteMe, the volume of personal information found online more than doubled between 2018 and 2020. The amount of information about you available on the internet makes it easy for fraudsters to distribute these personalized emails.

What you can do: Be on the lookout for emails that have an odd amount of personalization and verify the sender before clicking on any included links.

“Typically, when it comes to a shopping email, people are very careless,” says Shavell. “If you get an email from your bank, you’ll probably check it. A typical consumer will rarely do this with an offer to purchase.

While crooks can mimic the design of retailers’ emails, they cannot hide their email address. Before clicking a link, check the sender email address on any promotional email you receive to verify its source. Scammers can use an email address that contains a single letter of the genuine email address in the hope that you won’t notice it.

Whatever scam you encounter, if you fall victim to it, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general.

Do (real) business when you can

With your shopping list prepared, your budget sorted, and your protection from potential scams, work to find vacation deals when you can.

“I think consumers interested in these deals would benefit from buying earlier due to supply chain shortages,” says Vicki Morwitz, Bruce Greenwald professor of business and professor of marketing at the University’s Graduate School of Business. Columbia. “Products may not be available later, and we expect shipments to be slower this year as well.”

Much like last year, the best sellers will not end with one day, says Morwitz. Instead, expect to find deals sooner over a longer period of time.

“If you’ve done your research and see that it ticks these different boxes, go ahead and get this great deal,” Nofziger says.

Also check out the proven ways to get the best deals when shopping online. In addition to having your budget in hand, use coupons when available and work towards earning rewards when you shop.

More from NerdWallet

Sean Pyles writes for NerdWallet. E-mail: [email protected]. Twitter: @SeanPyles.

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