Savvy shoppers can save big on Black Friday, but there are ripoff artists out there. Here’s how to avoid the scams and still get the lowest prices.

Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, identified some leading Black Friday scams and ways to avoid them:

Free Shipping. Many retailers offer free shipping for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it’ll come with a catch — a required purchase minimum. If you aren’t going to meet that minimum, don’t fill up your cart with things you don’t need or want just to save on shipping.

Early Deals. Stores are rolling out pre-Black Friday deals, but these may not be the same as what you’ll see on Friday. Be sure to thoroughly check offers against the advertisements for Friday to nail the better deal.

Misleading Discounts. Look at price tags carefully. If the “starting price” is higher than what you’ve seen the item going for lately, odds are the retailer is using the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) to calculate the discount. At this point in the year, MSRP isn’t a useful number to go by, so if that’s what they’re basing the discount on, it’s a sly way of charging higher prices. Might be better to wait.

Don’t count on price matching. Don’t count on stores’ price match during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, most stores suspend their “price match” programs during this time. Before you decide where to buy, check on the retailers’ price matching policy. You may also have to show proof of a competitor’s selling for less money.

Lengthy exclusions and small print. Watch out for coupons with paragraphs of fine print. This equals a multitude of exclusions, and makes hunting down the coupon that applies too grueling. Be sure to read the fine print carefully — that 50% off coupon might not be worth the hassle if it doesn’t apply to anything you’d ordinarily want.

Know the codes and portals

Do an internet search for discount coupons and free shipping codes, although it’s often trial and error, according to Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook (checkbook.org).

Checkbook especially recommends RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com, and SlickDeals.net.

There are also smartphone shopping apps to compare prices, and Checkbook.org recommends ShopSavvy, BuyVia, and PriceGrabber. Amazon has integrated its price-checking tool into its app.

Before a big-ticket purchase, try a cash-back shopping portal, such as CashbackMonitor.com, which aggregates offers for rebates and best payouts. These portals can give you a price cut of up to 40%.

"I was so excited, I just got it," said Shakeena Parker, 35, of South Philadelphia, a nursing assistant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who shopped Black Friday on Thanksgiving with her mom and her sister. Parker said she ordered the 40-inch Element LED TV online Wednesday at midnight for $179.99.
Suzette Parmley / Staff
"I was so excited, I just got it," said Shakeena Parker, 35, of South Philadelphia, a nursing assistant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who shopped Black Friday on Thanksgiving with her mom and her sister. Parker said she ordered the 40-inch Element LED TV online Wednesday at midnight for $179.99.

Beware of porch pirates

Once you order online, don’t let “porch pirates" steal your packages.

We asked C&R Research, a Chicago-based market research firm that surveyed 2,000 consumers affected by package theft, about precautions shoppers can take for holiday season deliveries:

  • Stay home for delivery or send packages to work.
  • Shop at stores as opposed to online.
  • Use in-store pickup.
  • Require signature for delivery.
  • Install a home security camera or doorbell cam.
  • Ask delivery drivers to hide packages.
  • Pick up at delivery center.
  • Send packages to friends/relatives who can be home for delivery.