Don’t get tricked this Halloween season

BBB-Scam-Tracker-1

Halloween may be scary, but shopping for the holiday shouldn’t be.

The National Retail Federation estimates 73 percent of Americans will celebrate Halloween this year and that spending will reach $12.2 billion, a new record. Whether you’re shopping online, visiting a seasonal store or paying for a Halloween event or haunted house, you’ll want to shop safely.

BBB received more than 200 complaints last year about masquerade costume businesses, which include Halloween stores and websites. Many complaints involve orders from online retailers that never arrived. Seasonal Halloween stores are also a popular shopping spot this time of year, and because they’re not open year-round, they might have final sale items or unusual return policies to consider.

Before buying decorations, costumes or tickets for a Halloween activity, make sure you’re aware of all the terms and check with BBB to make sure you’re shopping with a reputable business.

Tips for safe Halloween shopping and celebration:

Shopping online

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers sometimes use holidays as a reason to lure people in with outrageously good prices. If you find a costume or decoration on an unfamiliar website for way less than other sites are charging, proceed with caution.
  • Look up the seller at BBB.org. This is good practice for any retail site you’re not familiar with. BBB.org can let you know a company’s track record, rating and any complaints from past customers.
  • Make sure you’re using a secure website. The store’s web address should start with “https://” and have a small image of a lock next to it – this means it is secure.
  • Pay with a credit card. Paying with credit makes it easier to dispute a purchase if something goes wrong.

Shopping at seasonal stores

  • Know the return policy. Seasonal Halloween stores may have unusual return policies. Ask about the policy, and if they plan to close shop on November 1 or refuse returns after, keep that in mind when making your purchase. Double check whether your items are “final sale.”
  • Ask the owner how you can contact them later. Seasonal sellers may have a website or number you can use in the off-season in case of any issues.
  • Save every receipt. This will help you in case of returns or disputes.

Attending special events or haunted houses

  • Read reviews online. Check the event or attraction’s website or BBB.org to read reviews from past customers. This can help you gauge the quality of the experience.
  • Check BBB Scam Tracker to see if others have filed a report about the event or attraction.
  • Be cautious when buying resale tickets. It’s typically safest to buy tickets directly from a venue. If you do buy resale tickets, check out BBB’s tips for avoiding resale scams.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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