Tips to shop smart this holiday season

Staff Writer

Scammers are sure to be out in full force this holiday shopping season. Attorney General Greg Zoeller offers some tips to help protect shoppers from becoming victims of scams or identity theft.
When shopping online:
• Research the online business you plan to purchase from and confirm their physical address and phone number in case you need to contact them.
• Consider using an online payment service, such as PayPal, or your credit card, which offers certain protections from fraudulent charges.
• Beware of emails or online offers soliciting hard-to-get items for unbelievably low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Make sure you are on a secure website when entering credit card information. A secure connection will have an "s" after the "http" web address and a closed lock icon.
• Exercise caution when making purchases from Craigslist, especially purchases that require meeting the seller in person. There’s a chance this could lead to a hold-up scam or the purchasing of stolen merchandise.
Other shopping tips:
• Closely watch your credit card during in-store transactions.
• Monitor credit card accounts and bank statements over the holidays and report potential unauthorized charges to your card issuer.
• Besides using cash for in-store purchases, credit cards offer the best available consumer protection.
• When buying gift certificates or gift cards, be sure you fully understand the terms and conditions. Consider buying these products directly from the retailer rather than a third party.
• If using a layaway plan to make a purchase, get a copy of the policy in writing before you start making payments and find out whether you will get a full refund, store credit or charged a non-refundable service fee if you change your mind about the item. Layaway plans can contain hidden fees or refund restrictions.
For more online shopping tips, click here. If you believe you might be a victim of identity theft, consider initiating a credit freeze on your accounts and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
To file a scam complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, click here.