Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Federal Trade Commission has 12 practical tips to help you watch your wallet, shop wisely, and protect your personal information.
- Make a shopping list and check it twice. Make sure your budget includes incidentals like cards, wrapping paper, parking, or eating out.
- Consider customer reviews carefully. The law says reviewers should disclose their connection to a company, but not all of them do. Before you buy anything based on a review, search online for information from sources you trust. Compare reviews from a variety of websites.
- If you use mobile apps to shop for deals, be aware of how the apps are paid for, what information they may gather from your device, or who gets that information.
- Giving jewelry? Take some time to learn the terms used in the industry so you can get the best quality and value.
- Make sure the scanned price is right. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them right away.
- Save every receipt. When you’re shopping online, keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, shipping costs and warranties.
- Free can be costly. Screen savers, e-cards, or other free seasonal downloads can carry viruses. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and your firewall, current.
- Billed for merchandise that wasn’t received? Here’s what to do if you get a bill for merchandise that you – or your Aunt Colleen – never received.
- Treat a gift card like cash. If it’s lost or stolen, you may be out the whole amount. Report it to the issuer right away.
- If you’re shopping “green,” online or off, examine product claims carefully.
- Be stingy when it comes to sharing your personal information. Don’t give out your credit card or other financial information for a chance at the newest tech toy, free gift card, seasonal job or holiday vacation rental.
- Tis the season to be wary, especially of charities that don’t – or won’t – provide key information in writing. Look for their mission statement, costs and where the money goes.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.