AG urges consumers to shop safely this holiday season

Louisiana businesses and consumers are gearing up for the hustle and bustle of Cyber Monday, but Attorney General Buddy Caldwell urges consumers to practice caution when knocking out their holiday shopping lists on the World Wide Web.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division expects an increase in reports of scams during the flurry of the holiday season, and offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to an online shopping scam.

First of all, online shoppers are advised to look for a secure checkout. Make sure all online purchases are made on a secure website. To confirm a site is secure, check the URL address and make sure there is an “s” in https://. Then, check the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This should show the actual URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal whether or not the site is encrypted.

Secondly, pay with a credit card. Purchases made with a credit card provide the most protection. Using a credit card usually allows shoppers to dispute unauthorized charges or charges for items not received. Some card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if the card is fraudulently used. Check terms and conditions with your cardholder. Do not send cash.

Also, know who you are dealing with. Make sure the online seller has a physical address and phone number so you can contact them if you have any questions or problems with your purchase. Try and make purchases only from companies you’re familiar with and that have a solid reputation. Do a little homework before entering any credit card information, especially if prices on a site you’ve never heard of seem too good to be true.

Watch out for look-alike websites. In a scam known as cybersquatting, crooks steal or slightly alter the website address of a well-known company to launch a copycat site that may look exactly like the real thing. The primary function of these fraudulent websites is to collect your credit card information to steal your identity or to sell fake or inferior counterfeit goods.

Meanwhile, beware of fake gift card offers. Some scammers use social media sites to promote fake gift card offers with the goal of stealing consumers’ personal information. The personal information is then sold to marketers or used for identity theft. Scams may offer a $1,000 gift card to a major retail store to the first 20 people who sign up for a particular “fan page.” To get the gift card, consumers are usually required to provide their personal information and take a series of quizzes for the fake offer.

Finally, keep records. Always print and save records of your transactions.

For more information or to report a scam, please contact the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-351-4889.

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Posted by on Nov 30 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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