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The Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season, starting with Black Friday. This busy holiday shopping weekend also includes Small Business Saturday and concludes with online shopping on Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday begins the following day. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas is offering these tips to shoppers and donors to ensure consumers remain safe during the holiday season. Always be sure to #ShopwithTrust and #GiveWisely:
• RESEARCH: Read product reviews, check for Business Profiles, look at the sales flyers and ads, compare prices, read customer complaints and reviews, and look for early promotions and “flash sales.” Black Friday is known for “door busting” sales, but sometimes quantities are limited or there are other restrictions. Before you wait in line for hours or brave the boisterous crowds, be sure you know what’s really being offered. Shop around since not all of the best sales or the best prices are in the big box stores. Thousands of small and independent businesses are participating in Small Business Saturday too.
• RETURN POLICIES: Inquire about the store’s return policy before purchasing. Also, be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs, and warranties to the person who will use the item. Always ask for a gift receipt, so the recipient can return or exchange a gift if necessary.
• ONLINE SHOPPING: Cyber Monday is one of the biggest online shopping days, but be cautious. With all the promotional emails received during the holidays, scammers will be out in full force. It’s best not to click on links from senders you don’t recognize. You can also hover your mouse over links without clicking to see if the address is really taking you to where it says it is. Also, check the reply email address. The address should be on a company domain. When shopping online, look for a small lock icon and an extra s in the URL (https… the extra “s” is for secure). Watch out for look-alike websites that mimic famous brands. Use a credit card for online shopping, as it has more fraud protections than a debit card. Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date.
• MOBILE SECURITY: With so many shoppers using their mobile devices to research and make purchases, it’s important to have a secure device. Be sure you’re using the recently updated version of apps and operating system on the phone. Also, actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – make sure apps use them appropriately. Public Wi-Fi is vulnerable to thieves and fraudsters looking to steal your info. When in stores or restaurants, avoid using banking or other apps that access sensitive personal information.
• LOOK OUT FOR SCAMS: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for holiday-related cons that require you to link to a website and share personal information. Scammers take advantage of bargain hunters, seasonal job seekers, and harried parents looking for the hot new toy or latest gadget. A popular holiday scam comes in an email claiming to be from a package delivery service. If you suspect a scam, check out BBB Scam Tracker (
• CHARITY DISCLOSURE: In preparation for Giving Tuesday and throughout the giving season, visit to find BBB Accredited Charities that have fully disclosed information to BBB. Although participation is voluntary, you may be cautious of charities that don’t disclose requested information to BBB. Also, be on the lookout for name similarities. Dubious charities often pick a name that sounds like a more famous charity. Before you give, be sure you

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