Attorney General shares tips to help consumers avoid scams and fraud

Rob Bonta says there is an increase in scams during the holiday season.

Information provided by the California Attorney General

California Attorney General Rob Bonta gave consumers tips on how to shop safely this holiday season.

“Whether you shop online or in person, the holiday season is a great time to support your local businesses. Unfortunately, it is also a period when we see an increase in fraud and other scams,” said Bonta. “Shop smarter this holiday season. Don’t let flashy Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday deals get you off your guard when it comes to potential scams, and always take the necessary steps to protect yourself.”

Bonta gave the following tips for safe shopping:

  • Be wary of a price or deal that seems too good to be true. Chances are, it is. There’s always a chance that the seller won’t send you anything, or that the item you get is counterfeit or stolen.
  • Pay attention to details before making a purchase. Please read all descriptions carefully as the fine print may state that an item is not as advertised. Ask the retailer about warranties, delivery dates, tracking numbers, and shipping and handling charges so there are no surprise charges at checkout. Make sure you understand the company’s return and exchange policies, and never assume that a store will allow you to return an item if you change your mind. Learn more about refund policy here.
  • Check if a company is legit. A quick internet search of the company can help you find out if the seller is legit and trustworthy. Search online for customer feedback, complaints, and other information that can help you decide whether to buy from the seller. Make sure the business has a legitimate physical address, phone number, and website. More information about checking a company’s background can be found here.
  • Use a credit card when shopping. Shopping with a credit card can make your life easier as by law you can dispute the charges on your credit card if something goes wrong. Some credit cards also offer warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits. Cash, money order, cryptocurrency or bank transfers do not give you the same option to reverse the charge. If you receive an unauthorized or incorrect charge on your credit card, you can follow these steps to dispute the charge.
  • Make sure you have a secure internet connection when shopping online. Before providing any personal or financial information online, always ensure that the website you are on is secure. You can do this by looking at the URL address to see if it starts with “https” (the “s” indicates it’s secure) and/or if it shows a lock icon, usually on the left side. Do not provide your credit card number, checking account or social security number via email, as this is never a secure way to pass on financial information. You can find more tips about online purchases here.
  • Do not open links from unsolicited text messages. As the Christmas shopping season approaches, you can receive text messages from unknown numbers with discount codes or access to exclusive sales. Think twice before clicking on these links as they can expose you to a scam, hacker, downloadable malware or add your number to a call list without your permission.
  • Close accounts on websites and apps you no longer need. Closing your accounts removes private data from services you no longer use and minimizes your digital footprint. You also have the right to delete your personal data under the California Consumer Privacy Act. More information about data privacy and security can be found here.
  • Know the common pitfalls of interest-free financing offers before entering into an agreement. While a company may advertise a 0% interest rate, keep in mind that not everyone qualifies. To qualify for zero-interest financing, you often need to have a near-perfect credit score. Interest-free financing may also have certain restrictions, such as a down payment requirement or a restriction on which items or models you can purchase with the special financing offer. In addition, the interest-free financing offer can only be an introductory rate, with a very high interest rate once the introductory period has ended. More information about interest-free financing can be found here.
  • Be careful with Buy Now, Pay Later financing. Buy now, pay later offers can carry high interest rates and late fees, especially if you can’t pay on time. Late payments can also damage your credit and lead to lawsuits from collection agencies. Make sure you understand the terms of each buy now, pay later offer, including how much you owe over the term of the loan and what happens if you are unable to make your payments. Additional information about buy now, pay later financing can be found here.

For more information and tips on how to shop safely during the holiday season, visit our consumer resources page at oag.ca.gov/consumers. If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, please report it to our office at oag.ca.gov/report.

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