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Holiday shopping scams: Quad-City shoppers should be wary of fake ads, coupons

Holiday shopping scams: Quad-City shoppers should be wary of fake ads, coupons

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In the Black Friday frenzy, Quad-Citians can get caught up the fast-paced search for bargains.

So Dennis Horton, director, Rockford Regional Office, Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, has some advice: Slow down. Read the fine print.

And, above all, be nice when you have encountered a problem.

Black Friday sales (combined Black Friday and Thanksgiving spending) are expected to surpass $12 billion online this year. In 2018, United States shoppers spent a record of more than $9 billion on Black Friday, the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

This year, there's a short window between Black Friday and Christmas Day - shopping is contracted into a three– or four-week period.

“There is a shorter window to get it all done," Horton said.

American consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during the holiday shopping season this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Sometimes, shoppers find coupons and sales are not what they first appear to be.

“What happens frequently is that someone will see an ad that is on TV or online and they get to the store and they found out the pricing is a little different,” Horton said. “Sometimes there are print errors in leaflets that are sent out. If you take note, on the bottom of the fliers, there generally is a disclaimer the store is not responsible for errors in this ad.

Generally merchants, if challenged, will give the customer the price that’s printed, he said.

Not all the offers are legit. “Fake coupons from big-name retailers continue to circulate on social media,” he said.

“They will proliferate now until Christmas,” he said. “People need to be very careful. The goal here is to steal not only the money but also identity information.”

Horton clicked on a recent ad on social media purportedly from Aldi to see what would happen. “I stopped at the point where they were asking for a lot of personal information. You go through and it asks you for information – your name, you email address, to ‘verify you as a customer,’ and it asks for a credit card number.”

It’s easy to mock up an ad, he said. “The logos are online. You can go and copy their logo.” He advises consumers to look for misspellings and verb tense in suspicious ads. “Check the grammar,” he said, because some of scammers aren’t from the United States.

Also, consumers should read the find print in the ads. “You need to know going in what the stores’ return policies are going to be.”

And if there is a problem with a purchase?

“I caution everyone: When there’s a problem with anything you've purchased, not just on Black Friday, politeness goes a lot farther than being angry," Horton said.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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