HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Early predictions show holiday sales growing by 3.9 percent compared to last year's figures. Included in that number are online sales, which are expected to rise between 13 and 15 percent. That would equate to $82 billion.
When you buy online, especially from auction sites such as eBay and local sites like Craigslist, it's best to do your homework before you make a bid.
More and more people are doing the majority, if not all of their holiday shopping online. 47 percent of customers in a recent survey said they plan to knock down a big chunk of their shopping list online this year.
Many of those consumers are utilizing auction and local sales sites to get a great deal, but you must be careful.
"You want to be very careful to look at the seller's history before you place a bid; that they have a strong rating from customers and that the reviews you see in there are current," said the Better Business Bureau's Michele Mason.
Be sure the seller you are dealing with is not an imposter.
"There have been times where we have heard of someone actually finding an old account and hacking into it, pretending that is them and using someone's good rating to try to get your money," Mason said.
Your 'antenna' should go up if the seller wants to make a deal offsite.
"Be very cautious about someone who might try to approach you independently and try to get you to conduct business off the auction site. There are services like PayPal that are in place to make sure you don't spend money and then lose it," Mason advised.
Unlike in many retail stores, it's not so easy to make exchanges or get refunds when purchasing from sites like eBay and Craigslist, one more reason to do your research.
Mason said to check whether it's a person or a business listing the item for sale and if they offer a refund. You can also check the host site's page to read their policies on safeguards and complaint procedures.
"Typically they are going to tell you that it is your responsibility to do the background check on that seller and know that if they don't offer a refund that you are taking that risk," Mason warned.
So do your homework, shop smart, and make sure you're familiar with the site's policies on returns and refunds.