CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminds consumers to use caution, shop wisely and protect their personal information as the holiday shopping season begins with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“Scammers often take advantage of increased consumer activity during the holidays, and every transaction could be an opportunity for a fraudster to steal your money or identity,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Whether you choose to shop for gifts in-store or online, be on the lookout for seasonal scams to avoid personal information ending up in the wrong hands. Remember, any deal that looks too good to be true is most likely untrue.”
The Attorney General recommends that consumers limit their use of debit cards, pay close attention to holiday credit card offers and be aware of fraudulent websites or coupons that resemble the real thing.
Credit cards, whether shopping online or in store, provide the best protection to dispute charges when goods or services do not arrive as promised. Debit cards, in contrast, are no different than cash and come with no special protection.
In-store shoppers also should leave Social Security cards and other non-essential information at home, lock presents away in the trunk, watch for skimming devices and use an RFID blocking sleeve or wallet to protect credit/debit cards from electronic pickpockets.
Online shopping is always popular and may see an even bigger surge this holiday season due to COVID-19, but it can also bring risks.
Online shoppers also should watch for spelling mistakes, low-quality images and ensure URL addresses legitimately match the known retailer’s website. These tips will help consumers identify fraudulent websites or illegitimate coupon offers hastily created to steal money and personal information.
Consumers should rely upon secure payment systems, avoid money transfers to unknown people and make sure any payment website starts with “https://,” as the “s” indicates a secure page.
Anyone who feels as though they have been scammed while shopping should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.