The best case? You lose your money for what you bought? The worst case? Your “good deal” turns out to be a scam that lets fraudsters get their hands on your financial information, potentially costing you a great deal of money and stress.
“Bargain shopping isn’t just about clipping coupons and about sourcing out good deals. It’s also about always keeping your eyes open to protect yourself. There are dishonest people out there trying to make a buck and there are people who seek to steal your identity, all under the lure of a really good deal,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“It may seem hard to pass up a really good deal in the moment, especially if you are on a tight budget, but you need to be on the lookout for deal-breaking red flags,” says Schwartz.
Be an educated shopper
If you see an item on sale for a decent discount, chances are you’ve uncovered a good deal. If you see an item for sale for an unbelievably low price, it may very well be because it is not real. Depending on the product and the channel through which you are buying (e.g. online marketplace, retail, and private sale), the item might be a knockoff, deficient, broken- or even stolen.
Your first line of defense to spot this red flag? Do research on a regular basis so that you are aware of what things generally cost. Also be in the habit of checking with the Better Business Bureau to vet out questionable businesses.
Be Proactive in Private Sales
With the proliferation of used private sales sites like Kijiji, Craig’s List and Letgo, there are bargains abounding, but you need to take a number of precautions to stay safe, and to protect yourself from getting scammed.
Again, knowing how much things cost new or in a retail environment with help set up a reference framework. Expect to negotiate, but also set your budget for purchase when you spot an item that you like.
Always ask for pictures of whatever you are buying. Be leery if someone is unwilling to share photos, because something is fishy. It’s possible that the item is damaged or different in some way than what the ad claims that it is.
Always plan to meet in a public place when you agree to purchase something and bring a friend for safety’s sake.
One of the most convenient places to shop is online, but it also an environment that can make you very vulnerable if you’re not vigilant for red flags.
Only purchase from sites that are encrypted (e.g. you should see a padlock or unbroken key on your screen)
When it comes to social media, you may often see awesome deals advertised. Don’t take the info as you see it on the ad, simply because you trust the social media site or app. Follow up directly with the company in question.
As a consumer, you should always be on high alert when it comes to protecting yourself. If you’ve accumulated debt because you were a victim of fraud, it can be hard to get your life back on track. First steps can be the hardest and we can help. Our credit counsellors are ready to talk to you at or check out our free online debt analysis.