ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s the busiest shopping season of the year, which means it’s an important time to make sure you don’t fall victim to consumer scams.
Attorney General Ashley Moody released the 2022 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide for Floridians on Tuesday to educate shoppers on how to keep their wallets safe.
Here are nine tips from the guide on how to avoid being scammed this holiday shopping season:
1. When shopping online, pay with a credit card instead of a debit card, if possible. Both payment methods allow you to dispute a charge if the merchandise never arrives or is different from what was ordered; but with a debit card, the purchase is already deducted from your bank account and it may take days or weeks for your bank to reverse the charge.
2. When ordering online, ensure your web browser has a secure connection before inputting or submitting payment information. In the address bar, a padlock should appear to signify that your session is secure.
3. Keep your receipts and be sure you understand retailers’ return policies and periods so you can return any unwanted items for a full refund.
4. Some retailers offer layaway plans or other payment options to allow shoppers to pay for items in installments or at a later date. Before agreeing to such a plan, be sure to ask whether the retailer charges a fee for its program and whether payments and any fees are refundable if the purchase is canceled or returned.
5. When purchasing gift cards, check whether there is an additional activation fee, and provide the activation receipt to the recipient. Additionally, consider the retailer’s financial situation before buying a gift card. If the retailer closes or declares bankruptcy, the recipient may not be able to enjoy the card’s value.
6. Check with the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org to determine whether other customers have filed complaints against the retailer.
7. Research before donating to a charity. Know if a charity is registered to solicit in Florida, be aware of how much your donation will actually go toward charitable programs as opposed to administrative expenses, and check others’ feedback on the charity. Websites like FDACS.gov/ConsumerServices, Guidestar.org and CharityNavigator.org allow potential donors to review charities to help make sure the donation doesn’t go to a scam organization.
8. Do not give your credit card number or bank account information to someone who has called or emailed you unsolicited. If you are interested in donating to a charity that has contacted you, ask them to mail you information about the charity and a pledge form. Legitimate charities should have no problem with this request.
9. Watch out for similar-sounding charities. It is not unusual for sham charities to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate, well-known charities.
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