Tips for avoiding shopping scams this Black Friday and beyond

Retailers expect a big boost in holiday shopping this year but more spending also means more scamming, and the Better Business Bureau is sounding the alarm.

They say online scams are the biggest threat to consumers this year.

While shopping online, beware of fake websites and avoid clicking on deals that pop-up on social media sites or in emails.

Steve Bernas, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois, suggests searching company names with the word scam next to it.

"See if you can find a phone number or a physical address," he said. "Be careful of the pop-up ads on social media. Those pop-up ads, you don't know where they're going and they can actually lead you to a site that has spam or malware on the computer."


Bernas says you should also research the items you're looking for before Black Friday by checking flyers and promotions, so you already know where are the best deals are.

"Many stores release their best Black Friday deals and exclusive coupons to people who have subscribed to their emails. Sign up ahead of the holiday season, and then unsubscribe afterward if needed," he said.

Know the return policy and warranty information and if you're giving it as a gift, pass that information along.

Always read the fine print. 

"Sometimes the big print giveth and the little print taketh away," Bernas said.

The best way to protect yourself he says is to avoid using cash and debit cards.

"Even if you have cash in your pocket, your credit card is your safest bet," Bernas said. "You have the most protection on credit card protections.… you can get your money back when you file a claim with your credit card company."