Beware of phony online ads and false promises for festive decor this holiday season.

3 minute read

Are you planning a brilliant display of lights and lawn decorations this holiday season? If so, you’re probably on the lookout for decor to make your home the brightest and most dazzling on the block. Don’t be too quick to click on that online ad for beautiful holiday decorations at cheap prices, though.

Scammers are eager to take advantage of your festive spirit this holiday season by conning you into ordering holiday decorations that disappoint when they arrive, says the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB scam tracker has received complaints about holiday decorations scams, starting as early as Halloween.

One consumer ordered a “giant seven-foot pumpkin head and giant seven-foot skeleton with LED eyes and sound” to thrill trick-or-treaters and intrigued passersby. But when the order arrived after nearly a month, the only thing scary about this Halloween decor was the fact that the decorations weren’t even close to what the person saw in the advertisement.

“What I finally got in the mail after almost a month was two rubber seven-inch dolls that sort of looked like what they were advertising,” said the disappointed consumer in the BBB scam tracker complaint. “The items looked amazing online, but the store is a total scam.”

Think you can simply return the items for a refund if you’re duped by a holiday decorations scammer? Don’t count on it. “This company will not reply to their emails, which is the only way of communicating,” according to the BBB complaint.

Now that the winter holiday season is here, it’s time to pack up that gigantic, inflatable black cat with the rotating head in your front yard. You probably can’t wait to decorate your home and lawn with colorful lights, an inflatable Santa Claus, carefully posed reindeer or whatever holiday decor expresses your holiday cheer.

Just make sure you don’t fall for a deal that’s too good to be true. Here are four tips from the BBB for avoiding holiday decor scams.

Research the company first

If a holiday decorations advertisement directs you to an unfamiliar website, hold off on pulling out your credit card to make a purchase. Check out the company first, starting with the website. Make sure the site lists working contact information, including a telephone number, email address and physical address, says the BBB.

Also search online for reviews of the company, adding “scam” to your search terms. Search for the company’s business rating and read reviews and complaints on the BBB website.

Find out: Don’t Fall for These Sneaky Package Delivery Scams

Be wary of fantastic deals

Everybody loves a good deal, but some bargains really are too good to be true. Large holiday light displays with technology are typically expensive. So, a dirt-cheap price on awe-inspiring lighting for your home’s exterior or an elaborate Christmas village on the lawn is likely a rip-off. “If you find something amazing for cheap, it could be a scam,” warns the BBB.

Find out: 7 Signs Your Online Soul Mate May Be Out to Scam You

Rein in the urge to impulse buy

You may get so excited by images of holiday decor in a lucrative ad that you feel like you must order the items right now, before they sell out. But keep in mind that scammers may be tracking your buying habits when you click on online ads. Then they target you with ads for products you find hard to resist.

Before you buy, do your research on the company, products and reviews to avoid getting scammed, advises the BBB.

Find: 7 Hacks to Help You Stop Impulse Spending

Pay with a credit card

If you purchase from an online holiday decorations ad, don’t pay with anything other than your credit card. Never pay with your debit card, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, if you get ripped off by a holiday decor scammer, credit card companies allow you to dispute the charges. However, you may not have that option if you pay with a debit card.

Also, if your credit card account is used to make fraudulent purchases, you’re only responsible for up to $50 of unauthorized transactions under the Fair Credit Billing Act. If a crook uses your debit card number to make fraudulent purchases, you could be liable for up to $500 or even the entire amount if you wait too long to report that someone is making fraudulent purchases.

When purchasing holiday decorations, you can always find great deals. However, it’s wise to stick with retailers you’re familiar with or companies recommended by trusted friends. There is no shortage of holiday decorations for sale, so shop carefully, read reviews and research the company before buying holiday decor from online ads.

Find out: 7 Red Flags That Paid Survey May Be a Scam

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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