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Action Line: How to avoid holiday shopping horrors

As the holiday season approaches, Blair Looney of the Better Business Bureau offers tips to incorporate into your shopping habits for protecting your personal information.
As the holiday season approaches, Blair Looney of the Better Business Bureau offers tips to incorporate into your shopping habits for protecting your personal information. Detroit Free Press file

A reader: It’s that time again! Everyone is starting their holiday shopping or at least talking about it. With the latest scams, breaches and an increase in online shopping, what tips do you have for those of us diving into the holiday shopping frenzy?

Action Line: At your Better Business Bureau, we cannot stress enough the importance of utilizing our most popular, free service which is our BBB Business Reviews. BBB Business Reviews provide information consumers need to make wise buying decisions. With the holidays just around the corner, your BBB wants to provide you with tips to incorporate into your shopping habits now, so your personal information is protected and you’re prepared for the busiest time of the year.

Here are some tips to get your shopping done safely:

1. Look for the lock. When shopping online or anytime you’re entering personal information on the web, make sure the website is security enabled. Look for the lock symbol and that the URL starts with https://. The “s” stands for secure.

2. Use credit cards, not cash or debit. Credit cards offer shoppers the most consumer protection, as long as you can keep credit card debt in check.

3. Check your account statements. Keep a close eye on your statements; the sooner you recognize an unauthorized purchase, the easier it is to recover lost funds.

4. Ask about return policies. Stores and website policies vastly differ. Some stores have a time limit on returns/exchanges, websites may charge you additional shipping and handling fees for unwanted items and some items may be nonreturnable.

5. Check out businesses on bbb.org. If buying from a company you’re unfamiliar with or shopping from a new website, check a company’s record on bbb.org. Basic company information will be listed, plus any complaints that have been filed against the business in the past three years.

6. Give wisely. Ask questions about how your donations will be used and verify the legitimacy of a charity or organization on give.org.

7. Know contact information. Before handing over money or personal information to a business, charity, website or individual, always verify contact information. Request formal name, phone number and physical address.

8. Use secure Internet connections. While on the go, using Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee shops and restaurants is a real data-saver. But if you’re shopping online, checking your accounts or entering personal information, you’re safer using a password-protected Wi-Fi signal or a cell signal.

If you spot any scams this holiday season, help warn others by reporting the cons on BBB Scam Tracker: www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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