Avoid scams, identity theft and shop smart with Holiday Shopping Guide

Florida attorney general released annual guide for consumers

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State officials want to help Florida consumers shop smart for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi released the 2018 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide to assist shoppers this holiday season.

The guide provides information about online identity theft, charity scams, item recalls and more.

“My Holiday Consumer Protection Guide is full of great advice for making secure purchases online and tips on avoiding identity theft and charity scams,” Bondi said. “The guide also includes safety information about toys and recalled items to better prepare shoppers to make wise purchases this holiday season.”

The 2018 guide identifies some of the latest recalled products such as baby items, furniture, household products, sporting goods and toys that pose a risk to children. The items are among the nearly 300 products recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission within the past year. The guide also includes several state and national resources identifying more specific recall items.

Some of the tips in the 2018 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide include:

  • Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card when shopping online. Both payment methods allow consumers to dispute a charge if the merchandise never arrives or is different from what was ordered. However, with a debit card, the purchase is already deducted from a bank account and it may take days or weeks for the bank to reverse the charge; 
  • Ensure that a web browser is secure before submitting payment information. To identify a secure browser, look for a padlock symbol in the address bar
  • Keep receipts and be sure to understand retailers’ return policies and periods, so consumers can return any unwanted items for a full refund. 

To view the 2018 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide, click here.

If consumers have questions about making secure holiday shopping purchases or believe to be the victim of a scam, they can call the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 1-866-9NO-SCAM or visit MyFloridaLegal.com.

More Black Friday, Cyber Monday tips

In advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam  and CFO Jimmy Patronis offered tips to help consumers avoid scams. 

"Last year Cyber Monday sales were approximately $6.6 billion and shoppers spent more than $5 billion online on Black Friday," Patronis said. "More than 47 percent of online shopping visits in 2017 were from smartphones. We all enjoy the convenience of online and mobile shopping, but it’s important to shop smart. Be alert and verify before you click.” 

Keep the following tips in mind while shopping on Black Friday:

  • Some retailers may inflate prices ahead of Black Friday to create the illusion of a drastic price cut. Research the regular retail price of items to check how much will actually be saved.   
  • Price matching policies may be suspended by some retailers between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 
  • Be wary of unexpected emails that claim to contain coupons with significant discounts and ask for personal information. Don’t click on any suspicious links. These may contain malware to compromise your identity. 
  • Read the fine print at the bottom of sales ads, as sales may be limited to certain time periods, brands or quantities. 

Below are precautions to take on Cyber Monday:

  • Avoid websites with odd or incorrect spellings of legitimate companies. Domain names that include hyphens are often red flags. 
  • Beware of bogus websites promising unbelievable deals. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Be wary of “delivery failure” or “order confirmation” emails for items you did not order. These may be used to gain a consumer’s personal information. 
  • Use a credit card for online orders. It is easier to dispute and mediate fraudulent charges with a credit card than a debit card.  
  • Use strong passwords for credit cards and bank accounts. 

Top Black Friday and Cyber Monday Scams:

  • "Free” Gift Cards. These scams are typically done via text message (sometimes email) and ask you to enter your information for a chance to win a high dollar amount gift card. These scams aim to steal your personal information.
  • Delivery Problems. After purchasing online, you may receive an email from someone pretending to be a reputable business telling you there is a problem with delivery or the transaction. This may come from the retail shop, or even one of the top delivery companies. No matter how authentic it looks, do not click on any links until you do research. 
  • Beware of “Deals.” Scammers use the same tactics reputable businesses use to lure you to purchase something at a great deal, which is why these scams can be even more dangerous. Use your instincts—if it’s too good to be true, it is.
  • Fake Coupons. One way scammers lure you into giving up your information is by using genuine grocery store or supermarket discounts. When you go to redeem the coupons, they ask for your personal information. 
  • Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Update Your Browser. Having the most updated browser can better protect against vulnerabilities that an older version may not have. 
  • HTTPS. Never shop on a website that doesn’t have “https” in from of the URL. The “s” indicates that your session is secure and uses encryption to keep your information safe. 
  • Don’t Click. If you receive an email or text message do not click on links, no matter how legitimate it looks. Take simples steps like hovering over the sender email address to see who the sender actual is.
  • Don’t Shop on Public WiFi. WiFi at your local coffee shop, while convenient, is unencrypted and unsecure. Shopping on a public WiFi network leaves your personal information vulnerable. 
  • Trust Your Instincts. Crazy low prices for high priced items are typically a sign of a scam. High price items like iPads, iPhones, or other electronics will be on sale this week, but likely not for 70 percent off.
  • Use Incognito or Private Page. Use an incognito page to prevents browsing history from being stored, if using a public computer. Normally, when you visit any web page, any text, pictures and cookies required by the page are stored locally on that computer.
  • Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For consumer protection information and resources, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

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