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BBB Tip: Safe online holiday shopping for parents

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  Holiday shopping is in full swing. Many shoppers are skipping the stores and heading online to purchase gifts for their children, continuing the trend for several years. How can you get your holiday shopping done safely and efficiently? The following tips, some of which are from the National Programs’ Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) team of the better Business Bureau (BBB), will help.

 How to safely choose gifts for kids online

  • Guard your privacy (and your child’s privacy, too!). Plenty of online retailers offer “hot toys 2022” lists, but it’s wise to proceed with caution when shopping for the season’s hottest toys. Stores choose toys they think will sell out quickly, but they don’t always take a toy’s safety or data collection practices into consideration. Make sure toys are safe and have good privacy policies before you buy.
  • Purchase apps and connected toys from Federal Trade Commission–approved Safe Harbor member companies (https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/coppa-safe-harbor-program). Make sure that none of your child’s personal information will be collected without your explicit consent. Choose apps and toys from companies that display seals on their website and toys from the CARU or another Safe Harbor.
  • Examine toy descriptions carefully. It’s easy to miss specific details about toys when you can’t examine them in person, so take your time reading toy descriptions online. Pay close attention to age recommendations, potential choking hazards, exactly what comes with the toy and what accessories you might need to purchase separately.
  • Read plenty of reviews before you buy. Another good way to get to know a toy without actually seeing it first is to read other consumers’ reviews. Pay close attention to both positive and negative reviews. Reviewing videos can help you better understand what a toy is like and how it works. But keep in mind that many reviewers, bloggers, influencers, etc., share opinions that should be taken with a grain of salt as these individuals might be getting paid to post their reviews.
  • Keep in mind age recommendations. Take age recommendations seriously since toys meant for teenagers could be dangerous for younger children. When shopping online, age recommendations might not be readily apparent, so do plenty of research before you make a purchase.
  • Watch out for in-app advertisements. Many toys come with connected apps. These, along with gaming apps for kids, likely feature in-app advertisements. Some in-app ads might be inappropriate for children. CARU offers excellent suggestions for educating your children about in-app advertising and what to watch out for as a parent.
  • Double-check small business web security. Supporting small businesses this holiday season is an excellent way to give back, but remember that many small businesses pivoted from making in-person sales to online sales back in 2020. Some small businesses might not have the resources or technical know-how to set up secure online purchasing. Call and ask about in-store purchase hours if a small business website seems less than secure. Check BBB’s online shopping guide.
  • Don’t fall for phishing scams. This year scammers are looking to trip consumers up with many phishing scams. These include compromised account messages, fake retail coupons, emails claiming there’s been a problem with package delivery, and more. Read up on phishing scams to avoid falling prey.

For more information

  To learn more about safe online shopping, read BBB’s online shopping resources (https://www.bbb.org/all/online-shopping). In addition, be sure to read BBB’s tips for avoiding delivery scams. When possible, shop from businesses that adhere to BBB Standards for Trust.

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