Tips to keep yourself safe while shopping during the holiday season

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NEW YORK — With Black Friday shopping underway and Cyber Monday coming up, authorities are encouraging everyone to protect themselves against fraud and scams.

New York and New Jersey officials issued several tips to keep themselves safe from fraud and scams.

  • Beware of misleading bargains and added fees: The “sale” price may be marked up before it was marked down. Additionally, delivery charges and/or added costs may not be reflected in the “sale” price.
  • Compare warranty terms: Not all warranties are the same. Make sure to read the terms to learn what protections you get and the duration of the warranties.
  • Know the terms of a lay away plan: Merchants are required by law to give a detailed description of merchandise to be purchased on lay away plans, the total cost, the duration of the plan and the location where the merchandise is stored.
  • Check return and refund policies: Merchants are required to post their refund policies. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday falling early this year, be mindful of the last days you can return items.
  • Beware of restricted gift cards: Be sure to read the conditions of gift cards before purchasing. Use your gift cards as soon as possible as some may have an expiration date or deduct the amount because of fees.
  • Shop only on secure Internet connections: Do not purchase items that involve personal or financial information while using an open and unsecured Wi-Fi connection. While entering payment information online, make sure the URL begins with https://, in order to protect yourself from identity thieves and cyber criminals.
  • Don’t be tricked by similar website and domain names: Pay attention to the retailer’s URL. Scammers use similar addresses of a known company to lure users to fake websites. Also avoid clicking on links from email or social media sites.
  • Avoid carrying a lot of cash: It’s better to use credit cards since you’ll be able to monitor how much you’re actually spending.
  • Protect yourself by using credit or debit cards: If you’re going to make a purchase online, the best way to protect yourself is by using credit or debit cards.
    • Credit cards offer better purchase protection and fraud dispute. Note that each purchase is essentially a loan you need to repay later.
    • Debit cards are less risky to get into debt, but be wary of overdraft charges. However if information is stolen, charges are directly deducted from your checking account.
  • Be wary of “too good to be true” contest or prize promotions: Be suspicious of email, messages or posts promoting giveaways or contests that seem too good to be true. Avoid any contests that require you to perform any sort of financial transaction. They’re likely scams designed to take consumers’ money or personal information.
  • Read the fine print: Broad promotions or offers often mislead consumers into paying full price items they believed were on sale. Examine Internet deals by reading the fine print.
  • Don’t shop alone: If you can, go with a buddy and park in well-lit areas. Also avoid leaving valuables or bags in the car.
  • Travel on safe routes: Traffic and shopping with a lot of bags can get annoying, but travel on routes that you are familiar with.
  • Carry a whistle: Sound attracts crowds. If in danger, blow your whistle.
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