Here’s how to review vacation deals – and avoid scams


    Supply chain problems, delivery delays and ongoing fears due to the pandemic have all added increased stress and scarcity to this year’s Christmas shopping season. This could lead some consumers to fall for fraudulent deals or buy products that do not quite meet their expectations.

    Prepare before you shop

    They are your best defense for being scammed or tricked into buying an item that is not what you think is.

    Before you go shopping, you know Your Büdget for Christmas gifts and make a list of your wishes. The unique challenges of shopping for the holidays in 2021 – current supply chain issues, ongoing microchip shortages, and delayed delivery times – could lead you to decide on a deal right away. Don’t let the fear of missing out on your must-have product seduce you into rushing shopping.

    “Scarcity is a persuasion tactic used by legitimate retailers as well as scammers,” said Amy Nofziger, director of Fraud Victim Support at AARP. “It’s these impulse purchases that get us into trouble.”

    For example, if you’re in the electronics market like a television, set the model numbers of the items on your list. This can help you avoid what is known as a “derivative” model. Usually only sold during the holidays, these products can be similar to the item you think of and sell for hundreds of dollars less. The catch? These cheaper versions are generally of lower quality, which makes them a worse deal than it seems at first glance.

    “Do your research to make sure this is the product and quality that you expected,” says Nofziger. “Don’t let the Black Friday hype take over your cognitive thinking.”

    Know the scammers’ tricks

    As with releasing a must-have gadget, scammers are constantly repeating new tricks and using them on the masses in hopes of stealing your money or personal information.

    Once your shopping list is ready, protect yourself by knowing about these scams.

    Social media advertising

    Also, watch out for fraudulent ads while Doom scrolling and swiping through the posts on your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Social media companies may not thoroughly review every ad on their platforms, so the promotions you see for the latest game console or trendy sneakers could actually be lured by scammers.

    “We hear from people who buy an item [they see on social media] and not getting the item, or getting the item and it’s very different, ”says Nofziger. “Then the seller doesn’t answer.”

    What you can do: Before making a purchase from a company that has been advertised to you on your social media feeds, double-check that it is legitimate. That means you check the website to see if it looks trustworthy, if the company has a physical address, and if it sells more products than you advertised. Failure to meet any of these criteria can be a red flag for fraudulent advertising.

    Even if the company is legitimate, take it a step further and review customer complaints. Google the company name and the word “complaint” to see what consumers have said about it. Again, consumer reviews can be a useful resource here.

    And when shopping online, use your credit card whenever possible. That’s because credit cards usually offer some fraud protection that debit cards and peer-to-peer payment methods don’t. If a company asks you to pay with a gift card or a peer-to-peer payment company like Venmo or Cash App, it could also be a red flag for a scam company.

    Hyper-targeted phishing emails

    You will receive an email with an exclusive offer just for you. Since you made a purchase at a specific retailer, the email states that you are entitled to a special offer. Or maybe you’ve just bought a car and received an email telling you that you’ve been selected to receive a discount on the accessories. So you click through to the merchant’s landing page, enter your personal details and – phew – you have just been scammed.

    With the help of your personal information, scammers send personalized emails that can trick you into revealing your login information or banking information, says Rob Shavell, CEO of the online data protection company DeleteMe. The email and landing page can even be designed to be identical to the actual retailer’s designs.

    “These [scam emails] are powered by consumer records, ”says Shavell. Your personal information, or PII, which includes things like your name, address, and even social media posts, can be collected into consumer records by data brokers and then sold to scammers and others.

    According to DeleteMe, the amount of PII found online more than doubled from 2018 to 2020. The amount of information about you that is available on the internet makes it easy for scammers to send these personalized emails.

    What you can do: Be on the lookout for emails with an uncanny level of personalization and double-check the sender before clicking any of the links.

    “When it comes to a shopping email, people are usually very listless,” says Shavell. “If you get an email from your bank, you will likely double-check it. A typical consumer will rarely do that in a shopping deal. “

    Scammers can imitate the design of merchant emails, but they cannot hide their email address. Before clicking a link, double-check the sender’s email address in any promotional email you receive to verify the source. Scammers can use an email address that strips a single letter from the authentic email address in hopes that you won’t notice.

    Regardless of the scam you encounter, if you fall victim to one, report the scam to them Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general of your state.

    Before you make a budget

    NerdWallet breaks down your expenses and shows you ways to save.

    Grab (real) offers if you can

    Once you’ve got your grocery list ready, your budget sorted, and protected from potential scams, work on getting hold of vacation deals whenever you can.

    “I think consumers interested in these offers would benefit from shopping earlier because of the supply chain scarcity,” said Vicki Morwitz, Bruce Greenwald Professor of Business and Professor of Marketing at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. “The products may not be available later, and we expect shipping to be slower this year as well.”

    Similar to last year, the best sales won’t be limited to one day, says Morwitz. Instead, expect offers to show up earlier over a longer period of time.

    “When you’ve done your research and see that these different boxes are ticked, get the great deal,” says Nofziger.


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