OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today provided consumers with tips on how to shop safely this holiday season. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly approach, Californians can do their part to protect themselves from scams, fraud, and other consumer-related issues. Below, Attorney General Bonta highlights useful tips for shoppers.
“Black Friday is right around the corner, marking the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Don’t let deals distract you from scams, and always take the necessary steps to protect yourself,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Whether you are shopping online or in person this year, holiday shopping is a great time to support your local businesses.”
Tips for Safe Shopping This Holiday Season:
- Be suspicious of a price or deal that seems too good to be true. Chances are, it probably is. There is always a chance that the seller may not send you anything, or the item you get may be counterfeit or stolen. For sellers, beware of buyers overpaying for goods with a check or money order and then asking for refunds. They may be setting you up for a scam where you write a good check to them, but their payment is fake.
- Be attentive to details before you make a purchase. Read all item descriptions closely, as the fine print may explain that an item is not as advertised. Ask the retailer about warranties, delivery dates, tracking numbers, and shipping and handling fees so that there are no surprise charges once you check out. Make sure you understand the company’s return and exchange policy and never assume a store will allow you to return an item if you change your mind. While most retail stores allow you to return things you buy within a reasonable timeframe, when a store clearly displays a limited or no-refund policy, refunds and exchanges are generally not required by law. You can find more information regarding refund policies here.
- Prior to making a purchase with a business, always do your research. A quick internet search of the business may help you figure out whether the seller is legitimate and trustworthy. Search online for customer feedback, complaints, and other information that will help you determine whether to purchase from the seller. Check to make sure that the business has a legitimate physical address, phone number, and website. More information on how to check 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 the law allows you to dispute charges on your credit card if something goes wrong. Some credit cards also provide warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits. You should refrain from paying with cash, money order, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers because these forms of payment do not provide you with the ability to reverse the charge. In the event that 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 make sure that the website you are on is secure. You can do this by looking at the URL address to see if it begins with https (the “s” indicates it’s secure) and/or has a lock icon displayed, typically on the left-hand side. Do not provide your credit card number, checking account, or social security number via email, as it is never a safe way to transmit financial information. You can find more tips regarding online purchases here.
- Don’t open links from unsolicited text messages. As the holiday shopping season approaches, you might start receiving text messages from unknown numbers offering discount codes or access to exclusive sales. Think twice before clicking on these links, as they may expose you to a scam, hacker, downloadable malware, or add your number to a calling list without your consent.
- Close accounts on websites and apps that you no longer need. Take a moment to sort through your accounts and close those that you don’t use. You also have the right to delete your personal information under the California Consumer Privacy Act. By closing your accounts and deleting personal information, you remove private data from services that you are no longer utilizing and minimize your digital footprint. Taking these steps may also help protect your identity from future data breaches and cyberattacks. More information on data privacy and security can be found here.
- Know the common pitfalls of zero-interest financing offers before entering into an agreement. While a company may advertise a 0% interest rate, be aware that not everyone will qualify. Oftentimes, qualifying for zero-interest financing requires you to have a near-perfect credit score. Zero-interest financing may also come with certain restrictions, such as a required down payment, or a limitation on what items or models you can purchase with the special financing offer. Additionally, the zero-interest financing offer may just be an introductory rate, with a very high-interest rate once the introductory period ends. You can find additional information on zero-interest financing here.
For more information and tips on how to stay safe while shopping this holiday season, visit our consumer resources page at oag.ca.gov/consumers. If you believe that you have been a victim of a scam, report it to our office at oag.ca.gov/report.