Supply chain issues, shipping delays and lingering fears from the pandemic have injected a heightened level of stress and scarcity into this year’s holiday shopping season. That could lead some consumers to fall for scam deals or buy products that aren’t quite what they expected.

Here’s how to avoid a Black Friday deal that’s too good to be true — and how to get the best real deals this holiday season.

Prepare before you shop

You are your best defense against getting scammed or duped into buying an item that’s not what you think it is.

Before you shop, know your budget for holiday gifts and make a list of exactly what you want. The unique challenges of shopping for the holidays in 2021 — recent supply chain issues, the ongoing microchip shortage and lagging delivery times — might tempt you to go for a deal the moment you see it. Don’t let the fear of missing out on your must-have item lead you to making overhasty purchases.

“Scarcity is a persuasion tactic that is used by legitimate retailers and also scammers,” says Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support at AARP. “It’s those impulse buys that get us into trouble.”

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For example, if you’re in the market for electronics like a TV, pin down the model numbers of the items on your list. This can help you avoid what’s called a “derivative” model. These products, which are typically only sold during the…

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