Holiday season is upon us. That means additional shopping, spending and traveling for many of us. Unfortunately, these increased transactions are also a golden opportunity for scammers. So, to help keep consumers and their money safe, the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection is offering the following tips:
- Take precautions when making online transactions. Many scammers have set up bogus websites offering popular products at below-market prices. They’ll take your money but you’ll end up with nothing in return. To avoid these scams, do your online shopping through reputable, well-known websites. You can also check out a company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
- Credit cards offer greater protections against fraud than cash, checks or debit cards. If a transaction turns out to be fraudulent, e.g. you never receive the item or it is defective, and the company refuses to give you a refund, you can report the fraud to your credit card issuer, and if it agrees that you were the victim of fraud, the most you will be liable for is $50. Many credit card issuers will even waive that amount.
- Guard against identity theft. One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to check your bank and credit card accounts frequently. Keep your receipts and compare them to your statement. If you come across a charge you don’t recognize, contact the financial institution immediately. In the event of identity theft, cancel the compromised cards and have new ones re-issued. You should also contact one of the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion – to put a fraud alert on your credit file.
- Make sure you are donating to legitimate charities. Many charities solicit for donations around the holidays, but scammers like to get in on the action too. It is very easy nowadays for a scammer to impersonate a well-known charity and even to make that organization’s name and number show up on your caller ID by using spoofing software. If you do receive a phone call about making a charitable donation, ask the caller to mail you more information; a reputable charity will be happy to comply. If you prefer to make donations online, initiate it yourself by searching for the charity. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads or links from unsolicited emails. You can also research a charity by going to give.org or charitynavigator.org.
- Check out return policies. When you make a purchase, ask what the store’s return policies are, especially on sale items. Always keep your receipts in case you have to return or exchange an item.
- Comparison Shop. Even if a store is advertising discounts, you should still comparison shop to make sure that the sale price is truly a bargain.