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BBB tips: Don’t be tricked by Halloween scammers

October 25, 2019

Shopping for Halloween should be fun — not terrifying. With so many costume and decoration ideas, it’s hard to choose what to buy, and where to buy it from.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Halloween spending for 2019 is expected to reach $8.8 billion, with consumers planning to spend an average of $86.27 each.

According to the NRF survey, among Halloween celebrants, 69% plan to pass out candy, 49% will decorate their home or yard, 47% will wear costumes, 29% will take their children trick-or-treating, and 17% will dress their pets in costumes.

When it comes to purchasing costumes and other Halloween supplies, 42% of shoppers will visit discount stores, 36% will visit a Halloween store, and 25% will shop online.

Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips to avoid getting spooked this Halloween.

Look around your home

Before heading out to the nearest Halloween store, check what items you have in your home. You may find an old costume you can re-purpose, or Halloween decorations you can put out. Doing this will not only help you save money, but you won’t end up with more than you need.

Rent a costume

Some people don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on a costume that will only be worn once, which is why they look to renting. While renting a costume leaves more room in your budget, know that the costume you may be getting may not be in great shape. If you opt for renting a costume this year, check out the condition of the costume first. Make sure you try it on and note any defects with the owner. Read over the rental agreement carefully and make sure you make note of the rental period.

Look for sales

Compare prices on Halloween costumes and decorations from various retail or online stores. Along with comparing prices, look for coupons and sign up for email alerts. This will help you get the best deals, saving you a nice chunk of change.

Always check the return policy  

Whether you are shopping in a store or online, always make sure you are clear on the store’s return policy before you buy. Find out how long you must keep your receipt, or what happens if you should lose your receipt. This will help you avoid any mishaps like unwanted items being non-refundable. Remember: Buying a bunch of stuff with the intent of simply returning it after Oct. 31 is considered fraud.

Shop smart online

When shopping from an online website, the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The S in “https” stands for secure.

Look up the website’s privacy policy and contact information. If it is not clearly listed, or they only have an email as the point of contact, take that as a big red flag and shop elsewhere.

Also, be sure to use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge. 

Seasonal stores

If you decide to shop from a seasonal store, ask whether or not they will be open after the holiday, how long they plan to stay open, and if they will accept returns after Halloween is over. If they plan to close up shop Nov. 1, or refuse returns after, either consider shopping elsewhere or take more time to be sure that item is exactly what you want before making the purchase. 

More tips for seasonal “pop-up” stores:

• See if they have a website in case you have to contact them later.

• Save every receipt.

• Use a credit card so you can dispute problems with the card’s issuer.

• Make sure you are clear on what items are final sale.

Attending a special event or visiting a haunted house

Before you purchase tickets, do some quick research and make sure that there are no complaints about the company hosting the event.

Check out the company at bbb.org. Read what previous customers have to say, and see how the business responds to complaints.

Check BBB Scam Tracker and see if other consumers have filed a report about the event host.

Search the business online adding the word “Complaint,” “Reviews” or “Scam” after their name for different search results.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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