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AG Cooper urges smart shopping as holiday gift buying heats up

Release date: 11/23/2004



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Noelle Talley

ate: November 23, 2004 Phone: 919/716-6413

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AG Cooper urges smart shopping as holiday gift buying heats up
Consumers reminded to watch out for potential scams, guard their personal info carefully

Raleigh: Consumers need to keep an eye out for scams and make smart choices as they begin their holiday shopping over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.

“While finding a parking spot at the local mall may seem like the trickiest part of holiday shopping, the real trouble can begin once you make a purchase,” Cooper said. “We want shoppers to get what they pay for this holiday season.”

Cooper encourages consumers to be careful when deciding where to shop, whether they choose to shop online, by mail order or at local stores. Cooper offered the following tips for shoppers:

Buy from established retailers. Buying directly off the street, from a questionable catalogue or from a new website can be risky. Stick with established companies and beware of unsolicited telephone calls and emails. Consumers can check up on a company by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at (877) 5-NO-SCAM. Consumers who have a bad experience with a business can call the same number to file a complaint.

Consider paying by credit card. Paying with a credit card improves consumers’ chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business. And if you order a gift that never arrives, you may be able to dispute the charge with the credit card company. Also, if your credit card is stolen or used by an unauthorized person, federal law limits your liability to $50. Some credit card companies offer additional protections for buyers.

Learn about refund and return policies. Some stores may accept returned merchandise but they are not required to do so by law. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a cash refund, and some charge a “restocking fee” for returned merchandise. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay postage to return it.

Giving gift cards or certificates? Buying gift cards from well-established stores improves the chances that the retailer will still be open when gift cards are redeemed. If the company closes before a gift card can be used, the buyer may be able to contest the charge through their credit card company. Watch out for gift cards that decrease in value if not used within a certain period of time.

Guard your privacy and protect your identity. You keep an eye on your wallet when shopping at the mall. It is just as important to keep an eye on personal information when you shop on the web or by mail order. Before you provide any personal information, find out about the company’s privacy policy. If the business doesn’t have an acceptable policy, then take your business elsewhere. To protect yourself from identity theft, never give out your Social Security number, driver’s license or bank account number to someone who pitches you a product by phone or by email. You also shouldn’t write your credit card number on a check as a form of identification.

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