Shop savvy and scam-free this holiday season

Mike Harrison of the Better Business Bureau gives tips on how to have a safe shopping experience this holiday season.

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner.

Black Friday and cyber Monday are two of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Want to maximize your gift haul?

Mike Harrison, the Mid-Missouri Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau said you should start preparing now by signing up for email alerts from your favorite retailers.

"Before you go out and shop you want to research for any types of deals so you can look for those online or in the newspaper so you can do comparison shopping. Then what you want to do is if you have any coupons or anything that you find, make sure that you bring those to the store so when you go to the checkout line there won't be any surprises," said Harrison.

If you're shopping online, here's what you can do if you're unsure of the website's security.

"You want to shop with trust. Something to keep in mind is when you shop online make sure in the web address that there is an 's' at the end of the http. In the bottom right hand corner you want to look for the lock symbol. And if you still have doubts about that you can right click on their web page, and that will tell you the URL or the name of the web page and whether it's encrypted or not."

Beware of deals that look too good to be true, because they ususally are.

"You always have to be aware when you're shopping online for any sorts of scams or unsolicited emails, those are the things you really want to look out for but yes, during the holidays definitely with the increase in internet usage and all of those good deals that are out there you do see a spike in complaints or scams but really if you're smart about it you secure your computer with anti-virus software or spam filters you're going to be in good shape."

Here's some tips for having a stress-free shopping experience:

1) Know the store's return policy.

2) Ask for a gift receipt.

3) Be aware of your surroundings. Always keep an eye on your purse or wallet.

4) If you're carrying several items, take a break and put some in your vehicle.

5) Pay with a credit card so you can dispute charges on damaged or misrepresented items.

6) Know your rights as a consumer.