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Shopping to decorate for Halloween should be a fun-filled experience – not a terrifying one. There are so many costume and decoration ideas that it’s hard to choose what to buy and where to buy it from. Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific wants to help you protect your hard-earned dollars and personal information this Halloween season.

In 2018, according to the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending is expected to reach $9 billion, with consumers planning to spend an average of $86.79 each.

The BBB recommends the following tips to avoid getting spooked this Halloween:

Look around your home. Before you head out to your nearest Halloween store, check what items you have in your home. You may find an old costume you can re-purpose or Halloween decorations you can put out. Doing this will not only help you save money, but you won’t end up with more than you need.

Rent a costume. Some people don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on a costume that will only be worn once, which is why they look to renting. While renting a costume leaves more room in your budget, know the costume you may be getting may not be in great shape. If you opt for renting a costume this year, check out the condition of the costume first. Make sure you try it on and note any defects with the owner. Read over the rental agreement carefully and make sure you note the rental period.

Always check the return policy. Whether you are shopping in a store or online, always make sure you are clear on the store’s return policy before you buy. Find out how long you must keep your receipt or what happens if you should lose your receipt. This will help you avoid any issues like unwanted items being nonreturnable. Remember: Buying a bunch of stuff with the intent of simply returning it after Oct. 31 is considered fraud.

Shop smart online. When shopping from an online website, the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The S in “https” stands for secure. Look up the website’s privacy policy and contact information. If it is not clearly listed, or it only has an email as the point of contact, take that as a red flag and shop elsewhere. Also, be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.

Seasonal stores. If you decide to shop from a seasonal store, ask whether they will be open after the holiday, how long they plan to stay open and if they will accept returns after Halloween is over. If they plan to close shop Nov. 1 or refuse returns after, either consider shopping elsewhere or take more time to be sure that item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.

Additionally, here are tips for seasonal “pop-up” stores:

See if it has a website in case you have to contact the store later.

Save every receipt.

Use a credit card so you can dispute problems through the card’s issuer.

Make sure you are clear on what items are “final sale.”

Attending a special event or visiting a haunted house

Before you purchase tickets, do some quick research and ensure there are no complaints about the company hosting the event. Check out the company at bbb.org. Read what previous customers have to say and see how the business responds to complaints. Check BBB Scam Tracker and see if other consumers have filed a report about the event host. Research the business online, adding the word “complaint”, “reviews” or “scam” after its name to garner different search results.

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