2016-11-16 / Features

Don’t Fall Prey To Thanksgiving, Holiday Shopping Scams


Retail experts say holiday shoppers this year are being treated to a variety of money saving deals by supermarkets, local retailers and big-name bargain stores that include “no-down payment” layaway plans.

To help you better manage and protect your holiday purchases, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is urging shoppers to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a victim of scammers and unethical merchants who prey on the public during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday shopping season.

DCA officials have released a list of suggestions for shoppers to follow in order to avoid being scammed or ripped off while shopping this holiday season:

If They Say The Bird Is Free…

Check with your local supermarket or other large supermarket chains to determine exactly what they mean when they advertise a “free turkey” for your Thanksgiving table. Some stores require you to make a significant amount of purchases in the weeks before Thanksgiving in order to qualify for a free bird, DCA officials say.

“If you patronize one supermarket all year, ask the manager in early November how to qualify for a free turkey,” DCA officials said. “Do not count on loyalty to snag a free bird, because your store shopper card might not be all you need.”

Check price, availability, brand, and ask if you have to spend $400-$500 in November to qualify for the free turkey deal, DCA officials said.

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity theft is devastating so don’t let the hustle and excitement of the holiday season keep you from protecting your personal information, the DCA advisory says.

Never give out your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, current or former address to anyone – over the phone, in person, or online. Avoid doing business with retailers that insist you provide personal information that could compromise your safety, DCA officials say.

Remember, all retailers are required by law to clearly display their policies that require consumers to provide proof of personal identification when making a credit card purchase. Do not allow retailers to scam you into providing personal information at the last minute, in order to purchase the item you have chosen.

Know The Rules Of Gift Card Purchases

Read up on new rules about gift cards that went into effect in August, 2010, DCA officials said. For example, gift cards must now remain valid for at least five years from the date of purchase, or the last date when cash was added to the card – whichever occurred last. No inactivity or service fees can be applied if the card has been used within the past 12 months. After that time, the cardholder can be charged one fee per month.

If you purchase a card for a spa treatment, air travel or hotel stay, buy one with a specific dollar value so you can get all benefits from consumer protection plans. Such cards, when purchased without a specified dollar amount, may not be covered by those protections.

Watch out for hidden fees and know that there is no cap on monthly fees after a 12-month period of inactivity.

Keep all receipts for gift card purchases and protect the cards as though they were cash.

Never buy counterfeit “designer” clothing, bags movies or CDs that have no warranty or guarantee of quality and that cannot be returned for refund or exchange.

Remember, retailers must clearly display their refund policy at the checkout counter. If a retailer does not post a refund policy, you have a right to a full refund within 19 days of purchase, in the same currency with which you paid (cash, credit card, etc.).

When shopping online, check to determine if you have to pay shipping charges and if gifts can be returned to a nearby store. Many retailers, especially electronics stores, charge a fee for restocking items returned – especially those returned in open boxes. Retailers must post a notice at the checkout counter indicating restocking fees.

Always keep your receipts. Most retailers have posted notices saying they will not exchange or refund items returned without a receipt.

Most retailers, large or small, are responsible merchants who follow the rules of good business, retail experts said. “In the long run, it’s the guy with the corner stand and the guy selling designer goods out of a storefront that consumers have to be wary of.”

Make sure down payment layaway programs do not come with a hidden fee. Some stores offer the free programs with a hidden fee to help pay for storage, etc. of your purchases.

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