Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley offers the following tips for Missouri consumers to protect themselves during the holiday season.
“We want to ensure that consumers get their deals as promised,” Hawley says. “Consumers need to do their research, be well prepared, and avoid being taken advantage of by scammers who prey upon people during this time of year.”
Hawley offers the following tips:
•Bring paper or electronic copies of special advertising. By bringing a copy of the special holiday deal to the store with you, it will be easier for you to verify that you are getting the price that the store advertised.
•Research merchants before you shop. Find out how long a company has been in business and look into its customer service track record before making a substantial purchase. Consumers can use the Attorney General’s online “Know Mo” portal to check for complaints against specific businesses.
•Make sure you understand return and exchange policies. Shoppers should read the fine print to be aware of any restocking fees or deals with limited return or exchange windows. Shoppers should hold on to documentation of purchases and always ask for gift receipts to protect the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange items at the full value the buyer paid for it. When shopping online, make sure to hold on to a copy of the final confirmation.
•Be aware of sales advertised only for certain days or hours in the day.
•Be on the lookout for bait-and-switch tactics. Bait-and-switch advertisements aim to draw you in, and then push you toward more expensive items. Shoppers should insist that retailers honor advertised deals and products.
•Make purchases with a credit card. Using a debit card online puts consumers in potential financial danger because a debit card is linked directly to a personal account. With a credit card, you can spend a specific amount that has to be approved. If your credit card is used to make a fraudulent purchase without your permission, you can inform the credit card company and potentially have the payment cancelled.
•Beware of emails pretending to be from businesses like UPS, FedEx or major retailers with links to package tracking information. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments to emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Some emails can infect your computer with a virus or download malware if you click a link. Email addresses that don’t match up, contain typos and grammatical errors are common red flags of a phishing scam. Make sure you have current antivirus software on your computer.
•Beware of text messages claiming recipient has won a Best Buy gift card (or Target, Home Depot or other major retailer). The text’s URL often leads to a website that has the company’s colors and logo. It looks authentic with the company’s name as the site’s subdomain. However, the texts are a way for scammers to collect personal information and even financial details, claiming the information is necessary to confirm the consumer’s identity or cover taxes/shipping of your “free” prize.
•While there are legitimate organizations and businesses that sell letters from Santa, con artists are also in the market to steal credit card information and the personal information of children.
The Attorney General’s Office recommends online shoppers take precautions to ensure transactions are secure. Only shop with trusted and familiar online retailers. Before entering credit card information, make sure that an “https” precedes the website in the browser address bar. The ‘s’ indicates use of a more secure protocol. Most browsers will display a locked padlock icon when on a secure site.
If you suspect deceptive advertising or other unfair business practices, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer protection hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint online.