Tips for avoiding scammers this holiday season

NEW YORK (WWTI) – The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection announces tips to help residents navigate the holiday shopping season. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, these tips are meant to empower shoppers with actionable fraud prevention tips, so they have greater awareness and control when shopping online. 

Tips to Help Avoid Online Shopping Scams:

Beware of fake websites: Fraudsters often imitate legitimate brands by creating fake shopping websites. Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and from whom you’re buying it. There are a few ways to tell if it’s an imposter website:

  1. Domain name: If the domain name doesn’t match the official company name or website;
  2. Grammatical errors: Legitimate organizations spend resources to make sure their sites are error-free; and
  3. Check the contact page and website’s privacy policy: The absence of a legitimate address, working phone number and privacy policy should be a cause for concern that you are viewing a scam site.

Be careful when shopping on social media: Scammers are using real store names and logos to advertise fake clearance sales on social media feeds:

  1. Pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews: To detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam, search for reviews before purchasing.
  2. Don’t purchase a product directly from the social media site: Open a new browser and make your purchase through the retailer’s website.

Beware of third-party seller scams: Use caution on trusted sites that host items from third-party sellers:

  1. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase.
  2. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.

Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer, doing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers.

Learn how to spot a fake review: Watch out for fake reviews online.

  1. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specific details. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective.
  2. Look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person.

Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want.

Beware of nonexistent return policies. If you notice that the return or refund policy of an online retailer is vague, missing or exceedingly limited, shop elsewhere.

Tips for Using Credit Cards Online:

  1. Check the website’s encryption; It’s easier than you think. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that the website’s address begins with “https” and that there is a closed lock on the website address bar or an unbroken key symbol in the lower portion of your window.
  2. Don’t keep the credit card on file for future purchases. Provide your credit card number each time you make a purchase.
  3. Designate one credit card and one email address for online shopping. This will allow for easy review of purchases and provide protection in case of a dispute.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and educational materials to consumers on product safety and voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. Their Assistance Helpline, 1-800-697-1220, is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding State Holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time Here and. For more consumer protection tips, follow The New York State Division of Consumer Protection on social media at Twitter and Facebook.

You can follow the New York Department of State for “Tuesday’s Tips” which are practical tips to educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.

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