RALEIGH -- With Halloween right around the corner, expect a flurry of pop-up shops and websites offering the latest holiday gear and decorations.  But the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina is advising shoppers to be wary with buying from unknown stores. 

According to the National Retail Federation, 174 million people are expected to take part in Halloween this year, spending more than $9 billion.  That makes the holiday the second largest shopping season of the year.  And every year, the BBB receives hundreds of complaints about costume stores ranging from poor quality to difficulty getting in touch with the store. 

So to help keep your wallet safe, the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina offers the following advice: 

Research store headquarters. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

Review purchase policies. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can’t offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.

Ask questions. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before placing an order. Be clear on the price, and any shipping and handling charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant.

Guard your personal information. Only provide your credit card number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix “https://” in the URL box listing the website’s address to be sure that the site you are using is secure. The “s” in the https means it is a secure site.

Ask how long a store will operate. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.

Use Reliable Stores You Have Used Before. In general, stick to reliable stores that you remember being there seasons before, or try an online retailer that's available year-round (like Spirit HalloweenWholesale Halloween Costumes, or Halloween Express). And if you need a last-minute costume, try Amazon or DIY one yourself!

Courtesy:  The above information was provided by the BBB of Eastern N.C.