Don’t get scammed this holiday weekend

A sign promoting Black Friday specials is displayed in the window of a J.C. Penny store (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A sign promoting Black Friday specials is displayed in the window of a J.C. Penny store (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The National Retail Federation says an estimated 137.4 million people plan to shop during Thanksgiving weekend.

Most shoppers want the best deals, and they don’t want to be scammed. So the Ohio Attorney General’s Office sent out these tips to help you while you’re out shopping.

  • Plan before you shop.
    Review ads carefully and compare deals. Important exclusions and limitations should be disclosed in ads, including online
  • Check return policies.
    In Ohio, sellers can choose to set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns,” but if they have a policy that limits your ability to get a refund, they should clearly tell you what the policy is before you complete the purchase.
  • Look for “free” offers that renew automatically.
    Before signing up for a free trial of a product or service, check the details, especially if you are asked to provide your credit card number or pay for shipping and handling. In many cases, if you sign up for the offer, you will be automatically enrolled in a program that will charge you on a regular basis.
  • Compare gift cards.
    Not all gift cards are alike, so review the terms and conditions before you buy. In general, most gift cards must last at least five years, but fees may vary depending on the type of card it is, such as whether it’s a single-store card or a prepaid network-branded card that can be used most anywhere. Also promotional cards, such as those that come free with a purchase, may not have the same protections.
  • Check details of a layaway plan.
    Layaway plans let you pay in installments before you buy an item outright. Before signing up, check the plan’s details. Look for any initiation or service fees, the length of the plan, when payments are due, and whether you can get your money back if you cancel. Also find out what happens if an item on layaway goes on sale, or if there are certain days when layaway is not available.
  • Keep your receipts.
    Keep copies of receipts, sales agreements, advertisements, photos of products, or other documentation of a sale until the transaction and billing process are complete.
  • Check delivery dates and fees.
    Carefully review the expected delivery date and shipping costs before you make a purchase. Find out whether you will have to pay shipping or restocking fees if you return the product.
  • Be careful where you click.
    Don’t click on links or attachments unless you’re sure they’re safe, even if they appear to come from a friend or if they pop up on a reputable website. Some links are placed by scammers, and clicking on them could cause a variety of problems, such as downloading malicious software on your device or locking you out of your accounts.
  • Use secure websites.
    Use secure websites whenever you need to enter personal information online. Look for websites that begin with “https” instead of just “http.” The “s” stands for secure.
  • Consider using a credit card for online purchases.
    In general, when you pay with a credit card, you have certain rights to dispute unauthorized charges that you may not have with a debit card or other form of payment.
  • Beware of fake apps.
    Not all retailers have their own apps. Even if an app appears to be “official,” it might actually come from a third party not associated with the retailer. To help avoid problems, use official app stores to download apps, and even then, double check the source of the app. Before downloading an app, be sure you are comfortable with the “permissions” it may require you to provide. Delete apps you no longer use.
  • Monitor your accounts.
    Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity. If you find problems, immediately notify your credit card provider or bank. The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.

The Columbus Division of Police also wants you to safe while you are out shopping. The department is offering the following safety tips:

  • Carry no more cash than absolutely necessary. If you are carrying cash, safeguard your money by carrying it in your front pocket. Never display a large amount of cash. If possible, pay by check, credit card or debit card.
  • Take an inventory of your purse or wallet. Write down the phone numbers of your credit card providers. Carry the phone numbers separate from your purse or wallet. Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Keep a record of all your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Try to avoid carrying a purse or wallet. If you must carry a wallet, place it in your front pocket. If you are carrying a purse, carry it securely across your body. Never leave your purse unattended, open in a shopping cart, or on a counter.
  • Always carry your driver’s license or identification card with you. Do not carry anything with you that you will not need. (I.e. social security card or extra credit cards you do not plan on using.)
  • Shop in pairs or with a group.
  • Don’t leave cell phones, purses, CD cases or other items of value in your vehicle where they can be seen. Always conceal items of value.
  • Lock purchased merchandise in the trunk of your vehicle.
  • Park in a well lit area and lock your vehicle. If you valet park, only leave the ignition key. Take your other keys with you.
  • If you place your packages in the trunk and plan on more shopping, consider moving your vehicle to another location.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings. Criminals step up their activities during the holidays. If you are approached by a stranger with a deal that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Report any suspicious activity to the police at 614-645-4545.
  • Report thefts immediately, no matter how insignificant. Police use crime reports to determine how to better serve the public.

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