With the shopping frenzy in full force just a couple of weeks before Christmas, now is the time to watch your wallet.
SALE SIGNS CAN BE SNEAKY: More than once, I’ve spotted great deals on the rack only to discover that the bargain price applied to something else on that rack – not what I grabbed. Yes, sale signs can, or should, have fine print. Sometimes, too, a clerk can make an honest error. Know what you expect to pay before you hit the register. Scan the item ahead of time. Do the math if a discount is to be taken at the register. Take the purchase back if you later spot that you paid more for it than expected.
A PURSE DOES NOT BELONG IN THE SHOPPING CART: Troy, Mich., Police Sgt. Andy Breidenich said shoppers can get distracted, and there’s an increased chance during the holiday season that a thief can walk off with a wallet or iPhone that’s left even for minutes on the counter. The same is true for purses left in shopping carts. And watch out for grab-and-dash thefts of purses in parking lots.
Women, Breidenich said, should put their cash, credit cards and ID in a smaller clutch that they keep in a pocket or under a jacket. Take cash and valuables out of a purse.
THE WHACKED-OUT WEBSITE: Not all shopping sites are legitimate. Some are created by con artists trying to capture your credit card information or identity. Take extra care if someone emails or texts an odd site that has super bargains on gifts.
Avoid making purchases from stores you’ve never heard of. If possible, do some research beforehand, for example, by checking out a site at the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
THE MONEY-GRAB GIFT CARD: What could be simpler than to buy a gift card? Well, there can be some glitches with gift cards, too. What if you buy the card and lose it? The gift card money is gone at some retailers, such as Marshalls or Outback Steakhouse.
Some retailers, including Target, will replace the lost, stolen or damaged cards with an original purchase receipt. But you would need to save receipts for gift cards.
PSST, WANNA DEAL ON A GIFT CARD? Watch out: You could be dealing with a disreputable third party, according to the Better Business Bureau. If there can be faux fur and faux cashmere, why not faux gift cards?
Some restaurants and retailers offer loyalty or promotional gift cards that can only be used during a short window. Read the fine print.
Consumers also need to watch the labels on their plastic. Did you just buy a gift card, which limits fees? Or did you just take a prepaid card off the rack? Prepaid cards can come with more fees, and you need to read those rules.
BE AWARE OF DECEPTIVE DELIVERIES AND SCAM SERVICES: The fraudsters take advantage of the rush-rush nature of the season. So don’t fall for a fake text that’s supposedly from your bank. Don’t accept notices about delivery delays or confirmations on unordered packages, either.
Phishers often pose as well-known retailers or shipping companies to gain false credibility. Do not go to any websites where these scam callers say you must go to correct a problem.