The holiday shopping season is right around the corner, which means consumers will be out in full force looking for the perfect gifts for their loved ones for the next month. According to the National Retail Federation’s survey on Holiday 2017, 164 million consumers plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, including Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.Not only will overall holiday spending break records this year, but individual spending will as well. Consumers say they are planning to spend an average of $967.13 this year, which is a 3.4 percent increase from the $935.58 consumers planned on spending last year.For the eleventh straight year, gift cards remain the most popular item on wish lists with 61 percent of those surveyed requesting them, followed by clothing and accessories (55 percent), electronics and accessories (33 percent), and jewelry at 23 percent.Better Business Bureau offers these tips to shop smart this holiday season:Shop with trust. Don’t jump at the first deal you find, instead take some time to do your research. Check out BBB business profiles to see how long companies have been in business, if they are accredited or not, and what past customers have to say about them. This will tell you a lot about a company and may be the difference between doing business with them, or someone else.Comparison shop. Shop around for the best deals, but watch out for too good to be true pricing. Fake retailers advertise cheap prices on high demand products as a way to attract and encourage consumers to "make a purchase" and provide sensitive information. In many cases, either the items do not exist or are counterfeit and are of poorer quality than official merchandise. Factor in shipping costs when comparing online retailers to physical storefronts and don’t forget to “shop small” and consider purchasing from local merchants.Lookout for email phishing. With all the promotional emails you’ll be receiving during the holidays, scammers will be out in full force. It’s best not to click on any links in emails from senders you don’t recognize. You can also hover your mouse over links without clicking to see if the address is really taking you to where it says it is. Also, check the reply email address. The address should be on a company domain.Stay secure. 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, that way you know your information is being protected. For more tips on safe online shopping, click here.Check the shipping policy. When ordering online, many retailers have certain cut off dates for specific shipping speeds. If you wait until the last minute, expect to pay extra for rush or even overnight shipping. Be sure to read the fine print before placing your order, or else your gift may not arrive in time.Check ad terms and conditions. Some stores only honor sale ads during a certain time frame or on certain days and may limit quantities available for purchase. Pay close attention to phrases like “beat competitors’ prices” or “free with purchase,” that require careful examination of terms and conditions. Watch for “asterisks” next to words or phrases, indicating there are special conditions to the offer.Ask about return and exchange policies. Keep in mind that returning or exchanging items is a privilege, not a right, and laws vary from state to state. For example, in Pennsylvania, stores must clearly post their return policy and follow it, but there is no law that says a store must accept returns, offer cash back, store credit or even take exchanges, except in instances that a product was misrepresented or defective. It is important to ask about return and exchange policies before making a purchase and request gift receipts to provide to the recipient in case they want to and are able to make a return.Be aware of shipping time frames and delivery thieves. Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren't shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund. The US Postal Service also offers specific deadlines to keep in mind if you want a shipment to arrive by a specific date. Obtain tracking information and arrange for shipments to be delivered to a secure location to help prevent delivery fraud. Click here for more safe delivery tips.Pay by credit card and keep documentation. Credit cards offer consumer protections you can’t get when paying with cash or even debit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item or unauthorized charges appear on your account. However, it’s important to be mindful of only charging what you can pay off in full and on-time. After placing an order, print out the confirmation or save it electronically until it arrives.Get gift receipts and warranty information. A gift receipt can be tucked into a gift item or card so that the recipient can return or exchange a gift if it’s not just right. Be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs and warranties to the person who will use the item.After you’ve done your holiday shopping, tell us about your experience by submitting a BBB customer review. For more smart shopping help for the holiday season, check out BBB tips on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Research companies through BBB Search and report any scams you encounter to BBB Scam Tracker.BBB Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties and BBB of Western Pennsylvania contributed to this report.