Atty General Bonta shares tips on how to avoid scams and fraud during the holiday season

California Attorney General Rob Bonta reminded residents on Wednesday how to avoid holiday shopping scams and fraud this season.

Scams, fraud and other consumer-related issues come into play during Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday as shoppers gear up for gift-giving, the AG’s office said.

“Whether you shop online or in person, the holiday season is a great time to support your local businesses,” says Bonta. “Unfortunately, it’s also a period where we typically see an increase in fraud and other scams.”

Bonta’s first tip is a reminder to trust your gut: be wary of a price or deal that seems too good to be true. Chances are, it probably is. You may end up paying for something that never shipped or buying a counterfeit or stolen item.

Second, don’t be afraid to read the fine print. Ask the retailer about warranties, delivery dates, tracking numbers, and shipping and handling charges so there are no surprise charges at checkout. Never assume that a store will let you return an item if you change your mind. Refunds are not required by law if a store clearly has a limited or no refund policy.

In California, retailers who fail to provide a full refund or credit within seven days of purchase or allow an equivalent exchange with a receipt must clearly display their policies at every checkout, sales counter, or public entrance. This requirement does not apply to perishable goods, items marked “final sale”, goods that have been used or damaged after purchase, custom orders, goods not returned in their original packaging, and items that cannot be resold due to health or hygiene. issues. If you find that a retailer is not complying with this requirement, you can file a complaint with Bonta’s office here: https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company

Remember that search engines can be your friend. Do a quick business search to see if a seller is legit or trustworthy. Read customer feedback and complaints, and make sure the business has a legitimate physical address, phone number, and website. To really do a deep dive, you can search the name of the company along with words like “scam,” “fraud,” or “lawsuit” to see how they’re doing.

Using a credit card when you buy can give you more options to dispute or reverse charges, Bonta said, and some credit cards come with their own customer warranty, return and purchase protection benefits.

When shopping online, there are a few things you can do to better protect yourself. First, make sure you’re using a secure connection, especially before entering any payment information. Secure sites generally start with a URL that starts with “https”, where the “s” means it’s safe. A lock icon may also appear near the URL if the site is safe. Bonta advises that no one should ever email credit card, social security number, or account information. It’s also wise to close any accounts you have on websites and apps you no longer need or use.

Scammers have gotten smarter by also using text messages, especially promising discount codes or access to “exclusive” sales. Never open a link from an unsolicited text message. You could expose yourself to a scam, hacker or downloadable malware, or your information could end up with annoying spammers on the call list.

Finally, Bonta warns against the pitfalls of “buy now, pay later” and zero-interest offers. Financing that allows you to pay later usually comes with a hefty interest payment and even arrears. Late payments can damage your credit rating. Before agreeing to enter into a buy now, pay later agreement, carefully study the terms, calculate your total debt over the term of the loan and determine what will happen if you are unable to make your payments.

As for interest-free financing, the vast majority of people who qualify have “near-perfect” credit, according to Bonta. Such deals will also likely require a down payment and will have limits on what is actually available to buy at that zero rate. Most importantly, check that zero interest rate is just for an introductory period and eventually shift to a high interest rate that is expected of you as part of the terms.

For more consumer protection information, visit oag.ca.gov/consumers, and if you think you’ve been scammed, go to oag.ca.gov/report.

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, retransmission or any other reuse without the express written permission of Bay City News, Inc. is forbidden.

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