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Don’t get tricked by spooky Halloween schemes

Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau
Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau

Halloween spending is projected to reach $9.1 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That kind of spending means unscrupulous businesses have plenty of opportunities to cash in.

NRF estimates a record number of adults plan to dress in costume this year. And, 16 percent of Halloween celebrants plan on dressing their pet in a costume this year. In the rush to purchase a costume or decorate the house, consumers can miss red flags. This Halloween, watch out for pop-up store confusion, online shopping scams, haunted events and other seasonal hazards.

Halloween is getting popular with grown-ups, and there are numerous haunted theme events you can attend with your friends. Be cautious of events that advertise only online or in social media, or that don’t provide information on how to contact the event organizers. When in doubt, contact the venue and see if they have a paid booking for the date and time listed, or if they have heard of the organizer. One company that came to BBB’s attention has a stated “No Refund” policy, which applies even when they are the ones to cancel the event! Talk about scary.

Each fall, pop-up Halloween stores appear in empty storefronts across the United States and Canada. These shops can be a great way to purchase costumes, decorations and other themed merchandise. But their temporary nature can leave consumers in the lurch.

Here are some tips for shopping at a seasonal Halloween store.

• Know the return policy: Ask whether the store will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over.

• Use a credit card: Save your receipts and use a credit card. If there’s a problem with your purchase, your credit card company will help handle the dispute.

• Check for contact information: Make sure the store has a website with contact information in case you need to reach them later.

• Check the shop’s BBB Business Review. Search for the store on BBB.org to see past complaints and ratings information.

A popular alternative to pop-up shops is ordering Halloween costumes and decorations online. When shopping online, make sure the website is secure before entering your credit card information (look for URLs that start with “https://”). Read the fine print, making sure you understand the return policy and shipping times. Hang on to confirmation numbers, and ensure the shop has working contact information so you can follow up in case of problems.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call 208-342-4649.

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