Are you ready for the Black Friday shopping binge?

State officials offer advice for avoiding holiday shopping scams

By Francine Frazier - Senior web editor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Over one in four Floridians (28%) said they will spend more on gifts in 2017, according to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey.

The boost in spending comes from a strong labor market, which is generating higher incomes and boosting consumer confidence.

Overall, AAA has seen a 40 percent increase in shoppers who said they will spend more money on gifts this holiday season. 

“According to our research, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to be the busiest shopping days,” said Belinda Dabrowski, managing director of AAA Partnership Development. “Gift cards and apparel will be at the top of most lists this holiday season.”

The top-selling gift cards are Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowes, according to AAA.

“Gift cards can take some of the stress out of holiday shopping,” Dabrowski said. “Purchasing a gift card allows the recipient to purchase items they enjoy and the savvy shopper can also enjoy some benefits as well.”

According to the survey results, the gifts consumers want under the tree are:

  • Gift Cards (27%)
  • Cash (23%)
  • Clothing (11%)
  • Travel (9%)
  • Electronics (7%)

As shoppers get ready to spend on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, officials with the state of Florida offered some tips to avoid potential scams.

Black Friday

  • Some retailers may inflate prices ahead of Black Friday to create the illusion of a drastic price cut. Research the regular retail price of items to check how much will actually be saved.
  • Price matching policies may be suspended by some retailers between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Be wary of unexpected emails that claim to contain coupons with significant discounts and ask for personal information. Don't click on any suspicious links. These may contain malware to compromise your identity.
  • Read the fine print at the bottom of sales ads, as sales may be limited to certain time periods, brands or quantities. 

Cyber Monday

  • Avoid websites with odd or incorrect spellings of legitimate companies. Domain names that include hyphens are often red flags.
  • Beware of bogus websites promising unbelievable deals. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be wary of “delivery failure” or “order confirmation” emails for items you did not order. These may be used to gain a consumer's personal information.
  • Use a credit card for online orders. It is easier to dispute and mediate fraudulent charges with a credit card than a debit card. 
  • Use strong passwords for credit cards and bank accounts.

Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department's consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For consumer protection information and resources, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

Savvy shopping

More than one in three consumers (36%) will use their smartphone to purchase gifts this year, a 16 percent increase over 2016, according to AAA.

Online shopping continues to gain ground this holiday season as 74 percent of shoppers say they will do at least half of their shopping on the web.

Cyber Monday will be the second-busiest shopping day of the year behind Black Friday. More than half (51%) of shoppers plan to buy gifts on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and retailers are responding.

Holiday vendors, hungry for a piece of the online shopping share, are advertising on social media, and optimizing their websites and apps for mobile phones and tablets.

“Shoppers are increasingly drawn to the convenience of online shopping,” said Josh Carrasco, AAA spokesperson. “Shopping online allows people to avoid the crowds and shop at their convenience.”

How to Save on Holiday Shopping

  1. Utilize Discounts – Search for retailer coupons or join mailing e-mail lists for exclusive discounts. Savvy shoppers looking for a bargain this holiday season can utilize the benefits of membership organizations like AAA.
  2. Shop Online – Shoppers can easily compare retailers online and find the best price for the products they want to purchase. Many retailers also offer exclusive online discounts and coupons through their app or website.
  3. Shop your budget – Set a spending limit before you start your gift purchasing. Nearly half of consumers (47%) will use a credit card for purchases this year. If using a credit card, use one that offers rewards that can help defray the cost of gift giving. 

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