Reghan Winkler: Staying safe while holiday shopping

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and of course, shopping! The pre-holiday sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday have already begun. estimates that over 140 million Americans plan to shop these deals this holiday season.

But while shoppers are looking forward to scoring some great deals, scammers are looking forward to taking advantage of them. Every year, unsuspecting people fall victim to fraudsters looking to make a quick buck during the holidays. At BBB, we want you to have a safe, scam-free shopping experience, whether you are shopping online or in person.

Here are some holiday shopping tips that can help you get great deals, avoid frustration, and shop safely.

Make a list and set a budget. Planning is the key to success when it comes to checking items off your list. Know what you need to buy before you get started, make a budget for yourself, and avoid making last minute decisions at check out to avoid overspending.

Be prepared and do research. When you are shopping for anything it’s important to do your research first. Check reviews and complaints online at to verify that the company and products are reputable. Use price-comparison sites like and to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Always pay with a credit card. Credit cards have excellent safety features that cash and debit cards don’t. If you suspect a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you can challenge it before you ever pay. Debit cards are linked directly to your checking account making it harder to retrieve funds if the debit card is compromised.

Shop Local. Local shopping doesn’t have to mean a boutique. Don’t forget to consider restaurants, local art studios, salons or spas, and even local coffee shops for gift cards and stocking stuffers.

Stay home and shop online. Most local and national stores have a website or application you can make secure purchases on. Look for the lock icon and “https” in the site’s web address on your browser window, these ensure the site you are shopping on is secure.

Avoid popup ads. When shopping online, be wary of ads that feature items that suggest you may want or need them based on your search history. Scammers could be trying to drive you to a different website to potentially steal personal information.

Don’t buy from impostors. Fraudsters may use the name, logo, and other characteristics of brands you trust on bogus websites, emails, and texts. Verify that they are who they say they are, by searching for them directly. Never click on attachments or links from unknown senders, these are often scams to get you to click through to a bogus site for you to furnish your personal information.

Track your own packages. Keep a list of products you are having delivered and check the websites directly for updates on shipping. Avoid relying on retailers for tracking notification. Spam texts or emails claiming a package has been delivered flourish during the holidays. These fraudulent delivery messages appear to come from major postal delivery services, but the links attached to these messages launch malware or mine for personal information on your device if clicked on.

Avoid fake charities with similar-sounding names. Scammers often use slightly different versions of the names of well-known, reliable organizations, hoping to lure people into sending money to the wrong place unknowingly.

Have fun! Follow these simple tips to ensure that you have a safe and happy holiday season. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt, just say no!

If you need help checking on a business or charity, call our office at 419-223-7010. You can find all your favorite local and national businesses contact information, complaints, and reviews at Happy shopping!

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at