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CFO Jeff Atwater reminds consumers to plan before braving Black Friday crowds

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

The days after Thanksgiving have become the top shopping weekend of the year for many retailers and the National Retail Federation expects more than 135 million Americans will shop retail deals over the holiday weekend.

While Black Friday deals may be enticing, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and the Department of Financial Services say shoppers need to make a plan and a budget before braving the crowds.

Most financial planners say shoppers should spend no more than 1.5 percent of their annual income on holiday gifts – about $858 for the median Florida family – and researching whether sale prices are truly a deal and not just flashy advertising can help that holiday budget go farther.

Chances are most of top deals will be available again later on in the shopping season, so its best to avoid snap decisions during the shopping spree. DFS also recommends shoppers use credit cards rather than debit cards or cash for holiday purchases, since most credit cards offer zero liability for fraudulent purchases. Credit card companies can also mediate between businesses and consumers if one of those holiday gifts doesn’t work as promised.

Consumers should also be wary of theft over the holiday shopping season, and not just in the mall parking lot. Fraudulent websites and callers may offer enticing deals in an attempt to steal financial information. Online shoppers should make sure Web addresses start with “HTTPS” instead of just “HTTP” before entering in their financial information.

Other fraudsters may even pose as charitable causes to prey on holiday spirit. DFS maintains a list of legitimate charities in the state which can be viewed online. Consumers can also verify a charity by calling the department at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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