Black Friday Shopping: How to Avoid Scams

·Senior Editor

(Photo: Arthur Belebeau / Trunk Archive)

Holiday shopping will reach a fever pitch this week, but with the frantic nature of sales, crowds, and confusing websites and online codes, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting ripped off. According to RetailMeNot, the largest online marketplace platform, 93 percent of Americans will spend an average of $141 per gift this year, with women buying around nine gifts and men buying seven. That’s a lot of hard-earned money spent! A whopping 68 percent of holiday shoppers will spend their cash between 6am and noon on Black Friday — and yes, 60 percent of them still go to actual stores. (Of those taking advantage of Cyber Monday, 95 percent will spend four hours online shopping during work hours!) With beauty items some of the most counterfeited on the market, here’s what you need to know to avoid getting ripped of.

Shopping on Black Friday has high potential for scams
“Counterfeit sellers will pop-up just for the high volume sale days, make the sale, get your credit card information and identity, and disappear,” Craig Crosby, publisher of The Counterfeit Report, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Counterfeiting is a $1.7 trillion criminal enterprise — larger than drug dealing. It’s easy for counterfeit sellers to get lost in the volume.”

Be particularly weary of fake fragrances
“Counterfeit fragrances are very common – all major brands,” says Crosby of the most counterfeited beauty item. “Lab tests indicate ingredients like urine, bacteria, antifreeze, and beryllium.” Not exactly what you want to be spraying on your skin. And while fragrances are the most counterfeited they’re simultaneously the most popular beauty item to buy this season. According to the NPD Group, fragrances have the biggest spike in sales around the holidays. Gift sets were the big sellers in the past, but this year it’s the perfumes and colognes that are the big money makers. So if you’re not sure the vendor is an authorized seller or the deal seems too good to be true, skip it.

Always buy beauty products from an authorized retailer
Buying directly from the brand or from a well-known mass store (like Sephora, Macy’s, or Target, for example) is the best way to protect yourself from being ripped off. “Buy from the larger retailers who will stand behind the product and accept returns,” says Crosby. Be weary of stores like Costco, however, which aren’t authorized to sell certain brands. Counterfeit Report Alerts lets you search for participating manufacturers and check to see if your item is possibly a fake, but you can also go to the brand’s website to find official retailers. If you do buy from an unauthorized seller, Crosby says there is no guarantee of quality or ingredients. “It can be counterfeit, fake, adulterated, or expired. It’s truly buyer beware.”

Beauty shoppers should avoid eBay

While there may be legitimate products and honest sellers on eBay, it’s very hard to tell them apart from all the phonies — and positive feedback (which can also be faked or created by unassuming buyers) does not always mean the seller is honest). “eBay does not remove the reported counterfeit listings, and does not notify prior buyers they may have received a counterfeit,” says Crosby. He says The Counterfeit Report has received over 2,000 products from eBay sellers, and never received an authentic item. Yikes! As a result to all the fraud, eBay along with PayPal are now facing a Federal court Racketeering (RICO) lawsuit. Unfortunately, positive feedback from a seller

How to spot fake beauty products
Counterfeiters are getting more and more savvy so faux products are trickier to spot. However, Crosby advises checking the text on the packaging. “Often typo’s, spelling errors, spacing errors and incorrect fonts are identifiers, but a comparison to an authentic product is sometimes needed,” he says.

Pay attention to sales in stores and sites like Groupon
When you see makeup or hair products costing anywhere from 15 to 50 percent off you’re much more likely to buy, but do your homework and make sure the original retail price isn’t overinflated. Likewise, some stores may have pre-existing fall sales going on that will land you a better deal than a flash Black Friday sale. Start scoping out websites now so you don’t get caught up in the moment and overpay.

Check return policies and keep your receipts
Have second thoughts or issues with your purchase? Most stores from Bath & Body Works to Barney’s will issue you a full refund or, at the very least, a store credit for unopened beauty products. Some retailers like CVS, Sephora, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Kohl’s will even accept opened or tested beauty items (though for online orders you may be responsible for the shipping and handling).

Related:

The Best Black Friday and Cyber Monday Beauty Deals

Holiday Gift Guide: The 15 Best Beauty Palettes

Beauty Advent Calendars for Christmas are Better Than Chocolate