Attorney General Chris Carr is sharing important tips to help Georgians shop safely and avoid scams this holiday season.
“With so many Georgians buying gifts, making donations, and sending and receiving packages during the holidays, criminals are eager to use this opportunity to try to con consumers out of their hard-earned money,” said Carr. “Knowledge is key, and our Consumer Protection Division is offering valuable information to help you protect your wallet and your identity, especially when shopping online.”
Tips for safe shopping and avoiding scams during the holidays:
- Only make purchases through reputable companies. You can check out a company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org. You can also read consumer reviews by searching online for the company name, along with the word “complaint,” “review” or “scam.”
- Beware of phony retail websites. Scammers create fake websites that may look very similar to that of a legitimate online retailer. Check the website name very closely. Spelling or grammatical errors may tip you off to a bogus website. Avoid navigating to a website through a link in an ad, text or unsolicited email.
- If possible, use credit cards when making purchases. Credit cards offer greater protections against fraud than cash, checks or debit cards.
- Beware of package delivery scams. Scammers have been sending texts and emails that purport to come from the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or FedEx saying that you missed a delivery or there is an update about your package. These imposters are trying to steal your money or sensitive data by prompting you to provide personal or payment information. In some cases, the links or attachments in these messages will download malware onto your device. Do not interact with the message. Instead, contact the actual shipper to see if there is a real issue. Always remember – if you actually do miss a shipment, the delivery company generally leaves a written notice on your door or in your mailbox.
- Watch out for fake order confirmations. Scammers may impersonate well-known retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, Target or Costco, by sending a text message or email confirming a recent purchase you supposedly made totaling several thousand dollars. The message contains a link or phone number to call in order to cancel the order and get a refund. But if you follow the instructions, you will end up giving your money or account credentials to a scammer. You can safely verify the status of your account at any time by going to the verified website address of the retailer in question, where you can then view your orders, track shipments and securely contact customer service.
- Guard against thieves who may steal packages off your doorstep. Track packages so you know when they arrive, have packages shipped to your work address instead of your home, or ask a neighbor to pick up packages for you if you’ll be out of town.
- Beware of malicious links. Be very wary about clicking on links to advertisements for holiday deals, e-greeting cards, notifications about package delivery problems, or warnings about compromised accounts. These may be from scammers who are hoping you will divulge personal or financial information or who are trying to get you to download malware onto your computer. If you need to verify a purchase or account status with a retailer, you should contact the company through a verified website or phone number.
- Avoid bogus charities. Many charities solicit for donations around the holidays, but scammers like to get in on the action too. Your safest bet is to initiate contact with the charity of your choice through a verified website or phone number. Avoid clicking on ads that pop-up in your social media accounts or links from unsolicited emails. You can research a charity by visiting give.org or charitynavigator.org.
- Pay close attention to return policies. A business may set its own return policy and may offer consumers cash, in-store credit, exchanges or no adjustment at all. Many stores also set time limits during which they accept returns. While not required to post their policies, businesses must honor any posted refund or return policy.
- Check your bank and credit card accounts frequently. If you come across a charge you don’t recognize, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately. In the event that a fraudulent transaction was made, cancel the compromised card and request that a new one be issued. You should also contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to have a fraud alert placed on your account.
Visit https://consumer.georgia.gov/scams-what-do-if-youve-lost-money-scam for additional information about what to do if you have lost money in a scam.
To report a scam or file a complaint about a business that is using unfair or deceptive practices, contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting consumer.ga.gov or calling 404-651-8600.