Attorney General Kelly cautions Holiday Shoppers; Offers tips to avoid Common Consumer Problems


HARRISBURG – Attorney General Linda Kelly today urged consumers to exercise caution during the holiday season to avoid common problems, scams and fraud.

“The holidays can be a busy and exciting time, filled with many distractions, so it is important for consumers to think before they spend,” Kelly said. “The pleasure of the holiday season can quickly be spoiled by crimes like identity theft or disputes involving gift purchases.”

Kelly said that consumers should review a number of important details before making a purchase at a store:

  • Check the exchange and return policy for restrictions or exceptions.
  • When shopping for a gift card or gift certificate, check for fees and expiration dates.
  • Keep all records and receipts in case you need to return an item or as proof-of-purchase for warranty repairs.
  • Check receipts for errors before you leave the store.
  • Be careful dealing with seasonal businesses that may quickly disappear.
  • Guard your purse or wallet and avoid carrying extra credit cards or personal information that could be lost or stolen.

“Online shopping has become increasingly popular, but making purchases by long-distance generates other potential problems and pitfalls,” Kelly said.

  • Do your homework before buying, especially if you have never dealt with a particular store or seller before.
  • Comparison shop for the best price, including shipping and handling fees.
  • Research the seller to see if they have a history of problems or disputes.
  • Understand all shipping costs and delivery times.
  • Review refund and return policies.
  • Read the businesses’ privacy policy to be certain that your information won’t be sold or shared without your knowledge.
  • Print all receipts and emails to verify your purchase.
  • Make sure your computer anti-virus program and firewall are up-to-date.
  • Watch for “look alike” websites that are used by scam artists.

“Consumers should be cautious about identity theft during the holidays,” Kelly said.  “Whether shopping in-person or online, your credit card numbers and other personal information can be at-risk if you don’t take steps to protect it.”

  • Keep personal information in a safe location (only carry the credit cards and other items that you need to make a purchase).
  • Shred all unwanted credit card & other financial “junk” mail.
  • Do not disclose personal information over the phone or by email (identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal information).
  • Review credit card and bank statements as soon as they arrive and contact your bank or card company immediately if you discover any unauthorized charges.
  • Check your credit history regularly – every consumer is entitled to one free credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus. Check your report several times per year to spot potential problems.

Kelly said the holidays are a busy time for many charities, adding that it is important to support charitable programs in your community, but consumers should also carefully consider any request for money.

  • Donate to charities that you are familiar with and whose activity you support.
  • Feel free to ask for additional information, in writing, about charitable programs.
  • Find out how much of your donation will be used for charitable activities, as opposed to administrative and fund-raising expenses -information on charities is available on the PA Dept. of State website.
  • Watch out for organization using names that closely resemble respected charities.
  • Never feel pressured into making a donation.
  • Ask door-to-door solicitors to show you their identification or credentials.
  • Write checks to the charity, not to the company or person collecting the money.

If you have questions or concerns about a consumer issue, or you believe you have been targeted by a holiday scam, contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or file an online consumer complaint.

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