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Home » News Articles » Buyer Beware! Looking for Alternatives for Your Holiday Shopping?

You’ve probably been hearing all about this: THIS holiday season, it might be harder to find the gifts you’re looking for. Many of us are looking for alternatives, like buying locally – or maybe from online marketplaces, social media sites, online ads, etc. If that’s you heading online, here are some tips you can do to avoid a scam or bad experience:


Check the rules about refunds and returns, and what happens if there’s a problem. Does the site have processes to help you get the refund if you don’t get exactly what was advertised or if you never get the item?


Make sure they let you pay with a safe payment method. For example, credit cards have legal protections, or a secure online payment system can protect you in case there’s a problem. IF someone tells you to pay with a wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, STOP. Find another seller. That’s how scammers tell you to pay.


Don’t buy from anyone who wants you to pay outside the marketplace’s payment system. If you do, you’ll lose any protection the site offers, and you probably won’t get the item or a refund.


Find out other’s people’s experiences. Search online for the site’s name with words like “complaint” or “scam”, and check to see if any well-known websites have credible and impartial reviews of the marketplace or the seller.


Look for pictures of the actual item and read the description of its condition and location. Buyer beware and know before you buy!

If something still goes wrong, try to work out problems with the seller. If that doesn’t work, report them to the marketplace. If you paid by credit or debit card, file a dispute with your credit or debit card company.

And report fraud, scams, or bad business practices to the FTC at

You CAN do it. Avoid these mistakes.

Portions excerpted from Amy Herbert, FTC

Holli Lewandowski, Certified Credit Counselor, Educator, and Advocate