Halloween is a popular time for online shopping as consumers turn to the internet to find the perfect costume or spooky decoration. With a record $12.2 billion expected to be spent this year on Halloween festivities, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), there are plenty of opportunities for bad actors to take a toll on unsuspecting shoppers. Every year, Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives reports from consumers across North America describing their challenges purchasing Halloween-themed items. Some of the most common issues include:
- Purchasing a Halloween costume or decoration that is never received.
- Unable to obtain a refund for a costume that does not fit or does not meet the customer’s expectations.
- Misleading advertisements about the quality, special effects, or durability of a costume or decoration.
- Misleading and expensive additional costs for expedited shipping services that do not affect how quickly an item is received.
Scammers often capitalize on high-demand items during the holidays, and Halloween is no different. Many consumers report issues when purchasing popular items such as oversized skeletons for their yard, Nightmare Before Christmas decorations, or costumes of movie or television show characters. While consumers can buy all these items safely online, it is important shoppers spend the time to verify the legitimacy of an online seller before providing payment and be wary of acting on impulse. A common tactic of any scammer is to create a sense of urgency and encourage a buyer to purchase an item immediately or risk losing it to someone else. This strategy is often more successful for shoppers who find the ‘perfect costume’ and need it before Halloween night.
Consumers are also encouraged to be cautious of the information they provide while answering Halloween-themed social media quizzes and be careful when purchasing tickets to attend Halloween events, such as haunted houses or festivals.
To help consumers shop safely and celebrate Halloween without the fear of losing their money to online scams, BBB provides the following tips:
Use protected payment methods. Be wary of online sellers who insist on payment through gift cards, wire transfers, or an unprotected mobile app transaction. Scammers know that these payment methods are immediate and difficult to reverse. BBB recommends using a credit card for all online purchases whenever possible due to the ability to dispute pending charges for items that are never received.
Research the seller. Verify multiple working contact methods will get you in touch with the business and that a listed physical address matches the business name. Scammers often use fabricated addresses or vacant lots as business addresses. Look for the company on BBB.org to read customer reviews, complaints, and check their BBB Rating. You can also use BBB Scam Tracker to see if an individual seller has been reported to the organization by other customers by searching for their phone number or email address.
Always check the return policy. Seasonal shops carry unique items for a short time in a temporary location or online. When shopping at this type of vendor, understand the store’s return policy before purchasing. Find out how long purchasers must keep the receipt or what happens if it is misplaced. Verifying store policies will help avoid mishaps like unwanted, broken, or faulty items being non-refundable.
Read reviews before purchasing. Take the time to read reviews from previous customers about the quality of a costume or decoration. In some cases, promotional pictures used to sell a Halloween item may not accurately reflect the product’s quality once received. See if any reviews focus on how easy or difficult it was to exchange or return the product, and check BBB.org for any complaints submitted against the company.
For more tips on how to save money and shop safely this Halloween, visit BBB.org/Halloween.