Halloween is one of the most admired holidays the people are looking forward to. Even though it is quite affordable comparing to, for example, Christmas, the consumers’ expenses are still quite impressive. In 2016, US consumers spent approximately 8.4 billion U.S. dollars for the Halloween season.
According to statista.com, in 2017 people are expected to pay more than $ 9.1 billion. Such a holiday rush makes fraudsters think about new realms of Halloween tricks without treats to take even more money from consumer’s pockets. Not to be deceived and to be well informed about possible fraud look at our tips how to avoid Halloween scams.
Top 5 Halloween Scams
The excited consumer places an order on the websites and is given a tracking number. The person waits, waits and waits for an order that is supposed to come at stated time. But suddenly the delivery date turns out to be postponed. Or, even worse, the order is cancelled without any notification. It is especially disappointing when it happened right before the holiday and you haven’t prepared the plan B.
Such a Halloween scam faced Pissed Consumer users. For example, a Disney Store customer ordered Halloween costumes for 2 granddaughters but the items didn’t come:
" …I was directed to the shipping dates of 5-7 business days. Called next day 10/25 and was given a tracking number that had a label created on 10/21 but still had not shipped. Called on Wednesday 10/26 and she reordered my order with 2 days shipping and stated it would be here Saturday 10/29. The order did not arrive, called Disney and was told the order would not come…"
A Newegg client received the letter that the order was cancelled.
"I ordered a $200 costume from Newegg.I received an email from them that stated: We regret to inform you that your order was auto-voided by our system because it was not shipped in a timely manner. ?????..."
Another case of Halloween fraud happened to Grandin Road customer. His/her shipping was significantly postponed:
"I ordered Halloween yard decor in early august, the promised ship date was 8-30.Received an email @that time with heading of "thanks for your order"..had i not looked closely at the "new" email i would never have noticed that they cancelled and reordered the product (without my permission or without any notification)....the new ship date was marked 10-20.....really?..."
Pissed Consumer Tip
Not to turn Halloween fun into a dramatic tragedy:
- Place online orders several weeks in advance, ideally in mid to late-September. That leaves a buffer if the delivery failed and you didn’t get the item in a particular time frame.
- Check shipping policy on the company website. Is there a money return guarantee if the order arrives late or doesn’t arrive at all? US law claims that goods and services must be delivered within 30 days. But merchant can set a different delivery period on its website that you should be aware of. If the company failed to perform the service in a particular timeframe - report the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Return/refund policy scam
Even if you order from a reliable store there is always the chance that something may go wrong. The item can be not as you wanted to purchase or the size doesn’t fit. And here may come the return/exchange Halloween scam into action. Some companies refuse to refund at all.
For instance, our poster had such a problem with Party City :
"My wife bought our 16month old a Halloween outfit two days before the 31st.She returned the unopened item, but the costume wasn't age appropriate. So, she went return the costume and PARTY City has a no refund policy!!??..."
Or require return shipment at buyer’s expense that can cost more than the item itself. Another Party City customer had such an issue:
"…Initiated my return weeks before Halloween as required, and the refund on my $40 item, after their BS DHL shipping charge?!? $4-effing-dollars back. Really, $36 to ship it back, hey?..."
Pissed Consumer Tip
What to do to prevent it from happening to you?
- Read carefully the return/exchange policies on the company website before the purchase. Usually, it’s either a separate block or is included into the Terms of Services/Terms and Conditions page.
- Check the reviews and posts on online review platforms, for example, Pissed Consumer, for hidden return policies or their violations.
Misleading advertising scam
Halloween rush is rich in various holiday sales. It is the second major holiday in terms of number of complaints about deals, after Black Friday complaints. Businesses try to push their goods and services in bundles or at a favorable price to attract even more customers. They design intriguing advertising and commercials to grab people’s attention and to make them visit their shop and buy their products. But, unfortunately not all the advertisements are entirely fair. Some deals may have hidden requirements or not applicable to all the locations. And holiday kits can be not as described or at a different price.
One of our posters posted a Elf Cosmetics Halloween Kit review:
"Ordered some of the "Halloween Kits" because they looked cool, and was expecting a "kit" as they advertised, maybe with some instruction on how to achieve the look…OH- and it is not a "kit" it is simply the products to complete the look, no instructions, no picture tutorial thing, nothing that would indicate this being a "halloween kit" (yes i know one was a cat and its simple enough but some of us are "makeup dumb")…"
You may find out about pricing mismatch only when you receive the product or are ready to pay and see that your receipt looks different from what you’ve expected. Our user bought some Halloween decorations at Lowe’s:
"I have to tell everyone with my experience with Lowes.I bought a Halloween decoration that was 119.99 for 19.99 and ordered 3 of this item.I received a confirmation for the items to be picked up.3 hours later I received another email cancelling my order.When I called Lowes to find out what was up, they told me they cancelled the order due to advertising at the incorrect price…"
A rebate scam can be also considered as a part of a holiday deals/offers fraud. The main aim of it is to sell as many products during the holiday season as possible. To boost the sales the consumers are offered a favorable rebate for the purchases in bulk. But in reality this deal turns out to be a crooked deal. For example, Pilot Flying J executives were charged with a massive fuel rebate fraud.
Pissed Consumer Tip
Before running to the shop or supermarket the first time you see advertising or a commercial:
- Read the information on the company website. Where this offer is valid? What does the bundle/kit include? What is the exact price of the deal and is a real bargain? May be other businesses have even more affordable pricing?
- Ask a shop assistant if you are already at the shop before purchasing anything.
If you’re planning to go out on Halloween, be aware of ticket and pass Halloween fraud. Especially, if you’re going to purchase them from third party vendors. This Halloween scam is quite common at the peak week before the holiday when most tickets are sold out. At that time scammers come into action. First, the brokers charge exorbitant commissions, that can be twice or three times more than the original cost. Second, the ticket can be simply not valid.
It happened to one of Vivid Seats consumers:
"We bought Disneyland Halloween ticket form Vividseats a month before the event, the reason we bought from Vividseats but not directly from Disneyland because the night was sold out and we only one ticket short for families so we paid almost double for one ticket, we booked flight, hotel take kids to Disneyland, the ticket we got form Vividseats was not valid..."
Pissed Consumer Tip
Not to spoil your Halloween mood and to know for sure that you’ll attend the desired show or theme park:
- Buy tickets in advance;
- Purchase the event ticket online, buy direct from the company website;
- Research carefully a ticket broker. Read the people’s feedback on review platforms like Pissed Consumer and on the net;
- Do not buy downloadable tickets and electronic passes from the suspicious sources like sellers on different Internet marketplaces. It is highly possible to receive a counterfeit copy;
- Check printed tickets from the third party vendor. There should be no spelling mistakes, the dates must be correct and the paper shouldn’t be too thin and flimsy;
- Secure your payments. Do not give your credit card information and pay by cash or PayPal.
Halloween is high time for impostors who earn their money on people’s desire to get the best goods for nothing or almost nothing. The scheme is very simple. Scam websites appear for a specific period of time before the holiday and offer the "only today, only here" offers with ridiculously low prices and wonderful discounts. Then get orders and mysteriously disappear. Especially such websites are blooming on different e-commence platforms and Internet marketplaces, where it’s difficult to trace them.
One of Pissed Consumer users fell for this trick with Etsy website:
"Was told i would have my order in time for Halloween. Ordered in plenty of time. Now the owner of the shop will not return my messages and her site is no longer up. I have no idea if rhe item will arrive or not. Other reviews complain of the same thing…"
Pissed Consumer tip
Listen to your intuition first. If the offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. To avoid such a website scam:
- Compare prices on similar stores that deal with seasonal sales.
- Examine carefully the site you’ve found the offer on. First, check the physical location. There must be a clear address, where the business is registered and the phone number for enquiries.
- Make sure if the site is secure in case you want to pay with your credit card. The company URL should contain prefix "https://". However, it’s better not to share your card information with unknown sources and to pay via PayPal.
- Check the seller’s feedback rating, if the website is on the e-commence platform.
Our Pissed Consumer team wishes you lots of fun on Halloween and not to be involved into any horror shopping story. Always remember, that it’s better to be safe than sorry and to be careful every time and everywhere.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.