Be aware of census scams

It’s the creepiest, spookiest time of year, but things really get scary when you think about how much money you’re about to spend on Halloween. Candy, costumes and decorations can really add up. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an estimated $8.8 billion will be spent this Halloween, with the individual consumer spending an average of $86.27.

In a survey taken by the NRF, 69% of consumers said they plan to pass out candy, 49% intend to decorate their homes and yard, 47% will buy costumes for themselves (17% plan to buy costumes for their pets) and 29% are taking their children trick-or-treating. All of these Halloween festivities can mean purchases, but your Better Business Bureau has tips for saving money, and keeping your money safe, during this frightful time of year:

• Look around the house. Check your house for costumes you can re-use or items you can make a costume with. You may also find decorations from past Halloweens. This will save you money and a trip to a Halloween or party store, but it will also keep you from accumulating extra clutter as well.

• Rent a costume. If you only dress up around this time of year and don’t want to purchase a costume that will only be worn once, try renting it instead! This can certainly be a cheaper option for you, but also leaves the possibility of getting a costume that isn’t in the best shape. Check the condition of the costume and try it on first. If it has any damage, discuss those with the owner so you don’t get charged. Be sure to read the rental agreement carefully and take note of deadlines, so you don’t get charged extra.

• Watch for sales. Comparing prices between different stores and online retailers can save you money, and be sure to look for sales. Keep an eye out for coupons and sign up for email alerts. Doing all of these things can save you a decent amount of money.

• Check the return policy. Always make careful note of a store or online retailer’s return policy. That way, you don’t accidentally end up with unwanted or damaged goods. Don’t forget purchasing items with the intent of returning them after October 31 is considered fraud.

• Shop safe online. When shopping online for you Halloween needs, be sure you’re shopping on a secure site. You’ll know it’s secure by the ‘s’ in the ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL and the lock symbol. It is also safer to use your credit card rather than a debit card, in the event you need to dispute a charge.

• Attending events. If your holiday festivities include events like a haunted house, be sure to check reviews and see if there are complaints against the company hosting the event. You can check their business profile at bbb.org.

From everyone here at BBB serving the Heart of Texas, have a Spooktacular Halloween!

Emily Gaines is a public relations coordinator with the Better Business Bureau in Austin. 

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