In advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi offered shopping tips to help consumers avoid scams.
Putnam’s office says to 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.
His office also provided advice for 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.
Bondi’s office released the 2017 Holiday Consumer Protection Guide, which “provides product safety information and tips to help consumers enjoy a safer and more satisfying holiday shopping experience.”
Consumers can find online purchasing tips and advice for avoiding charity scams. Also, the guide includes a list of items recalled by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission in the past year, specifically focusing on children’s toys and items that pose a particular risk to kids and teens.
Bondi also offered tips to protect financial information when purchasing online:
— Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card.
— Ensure the browser is using a secure connection.
— Contact debit and credit card account providers to see if the providers offer one-time card numbers to be used for online transactions.
— Keep receipts and be sure to understand retailers’ return policies and periods so consumers can return any unwanted items in a timely manner and get a full refund.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ consumer protection and information hotline is 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For consumer protection information and resources, go to FloridaConsumerHelp.com.