SALT LAKE CITY — As the holiday shopping season approaches, the Utah Department of Commerce and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection released its annual list of shopping tips to keep consumers safe as they make holiday purchases.
The National Retail Federation estimated that 164 million Americans were planning to shop over the upcoming holiday, beginning on Thanksgiving Day into Black Friday and through the weekend.
The federation forecast consumers would spend $967 per person, including $608 on gifts for family and friends, $218 on food, candy and decorations, and $141 on non-gift purchases for themselves and family members.
The report stated retail sales between November and December could climb to upward of $678 billion. Finding good deals are still shoppers' top priority, the federation said, noting 30 percent of consumers made all purchases “on sale” last year.
The federation reported that each year, online shopping continues to increase, with 64 percent of shoppers this year expected to use their smartphone or tablet to shop for holiday gifts, an 8 percent jump over last year. State officials noted that consumers are also expected to buy in-store, on mobile devices and via computer through text, email and website offers that could target consumers via social media as well.
“While Utahns are savvy when it comes to hunting for bargains in store and online, remember ’tis the season for con artists looking to line their pockets,” warned Francine Giani, executive director of the state Commerce Department. “Hot toys in demand can make consumers vulnerable to counterfeit products and fake websites.”
With so many shopping choices, the state Division of Consumer Protection advised consumers to carefully review refund and return policies prior to making purchases.
“As you compare prices and products, take a moment to review the vendors’ return policy to avoid any refund headaches after the holidays have passed,” said division director Daniel O’Bannon.
Tips for shopping smart and safe this holiday season
1. Beware of rogue public Wi-Fi spots — Scammers will set up shop at popular public Wi-Fi locations and promote “free” Wi-Fi connections to entice consumers to connect their devices.
2. Secure your smartphone and tablet devices — Install only apps or programs from known sources, keep an eye on your bill, investigate if your battery runs down quickly and do not leave your phone unattended.
3. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date on your mobile devices and home computer — Make sure you have installed the latest firewall and anti-virus software.
4. Don’t send cash or wire money for payment.
5. Compare prices, look out for phantom websites.
6. Avoid counterfeit products.
8. Enter financial information only on secure sites — Do not email financial information, like your credit card or checking account number.
9. Keep a paper trail in a file folder. Print and save records of all your online transactions.
10. Before you purchase, review the refund policy and delivery rates.
11. Consider using coupons —Some companies offer discounts via email, and some websites collect and list codes for free shipping and other discounts. Search for the store with terms like "discount," "coupon" or "free shipping."
12. Read retailer and product reviews — Reviews from other people, experts, and columnists can give you an idea of how a product performs.