Tips for Safe Shopping and Giving this Holiday Season
ATLANTA, GA – Although many of us will be forgoing our normal holiday plans this season, con artists will, unfortunately, not be taking this year off. With retail sales forecast to increase over 2019 and an ever-growing number of consumers relying on e-commerce to fulfill the family wish list, Attorney General Chris Carr is cautioning consumers to ensure they spend wisely by heeding the following tips from the Consumer Protection Division:
- Beware of bogus websites. Many scammers have set up phony websites offering popular products at below-market prices. They’ll take your money, but you’ll end up with nothing in return. If you want to shop online, do so through reputable, well-known websites only. Avoid clicking on online ads that pop-up in your news feed or social media accounts. 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. the merchant never ships the item or sends a defective product and refuses to refund your money, you can report it to your credit card issuer and request a chargeback. Debit cards often offer a shorter timeframe in which to report fraud and may hold you liable for a higher amount. Plus, since debit card purchases withdraw money directly from your bank account, fraudulent charges could cause you to overdraft your account, default on payments or incur bank fees and late charges.
- Beware of package delivery scams. Scammers may send you a text or email that purports to come from the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or Fedex saying that you missed a delivery or there’s an update about your package. Sometimes these messages include a link or file attachment, which could download malware onto your device. Other times, the scammer is trying to steal your money or trick you into providing personal information. Avoid clicking on these links or downloading any attachments. If you need to track a package, the safest thing to do is to pull up your order confirmation and use the links or phone number provided there. And remember -- if you actually do miss a shipment, the delivery company generally leaves a notice on your door or in your mailbox.
- 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.
- Guard against identity theft. With the additional purchases that you may be making at this time of year, it can be easy to overlook an unfamiliar charge that is actually fraudulent. So be sure to keep your receipts and compare them to your bank and credit card 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.