CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urges consumers to exercise caution as Black Friday and Cyber Monday start the holiday shopping season.
“This is the time when holiday shopping kicks into full gear,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “It’s important to know how to spot scams and unscrupulous situations as you find the perfect gift for that special somebody.”
The Attorney General recommends that consumers pay close attention to holiday credit card offers, limit their use of debit cards and be aware of fraudulent websites or coupons that resemble the real thing.
In-store shoppers also should leave Social Security cards and other non-essential information at home, lock presents away in the trunk, watch for skimming devices and use a RFID blocking sleeve or wallet to protect credit/debit cards from electronic pickpockets.
Holiday credit card offers require a close reading of the contract. Deferred interest promotions may promise zero-percent interest through December 2018, but failure to pay off the entire balance by the promotion period’s end could stick the consumer with an interest charge dating back to the item’s original purchase date.
Also, the Attorney General suggests consumers use credit as opposed to debit. Credit cards offer broader protections to dispute charges when goods or services do not arrive as promised. Debit cards, in contrast, are no different than cash and come with no special protection.
Online shoppers also should watch for spelling mistakes, low-quality images and ensure URL addresses legitimately match the known retailer’s website. These tips will help consumers identify fraudulent websites or illegitimate coupon offers hastily created to steal money and personal information.
Consumers should rely upon secure payment systems such as PayPal, avoid money transfers to unknown people and make sure any payment website starts with https:// as the “s” indicates a secure page.
Anyone who feels as though they have been scammed while shopping should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.