Virginia Attorney General warns shoppers of holiday scams, expands consumer protection

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As shoppers prepare for Black Friday and other holiday super sales, Attorney General Mark R. Herring encourages consumers to stay away from scammers and deals that seem too good be to true.

“The holidays are a great time to celebrate and give thanks with friends, family, and neighbors, but it’s also a time when criminals and scammers try to take advantage of Virginians’ generosity and all that we have going on in our lives this time of the year,” Herring said in a news release.

“Whether you’re shopping in person, online, or giving to a charity, it’s important that Virginians understand their rights as consumers and the tools and resources we have available to help them make informed decisions and hang onto their money. Education and prevention are so important because once money changes hands, especially cash, pre-paid cards, or online transfers, it’s nearly impossible to get back,” he added.

To protect Virginia consumers, Herring overhauled consumer protection laws to aid in handling filed complaints and disputes. The program also educates consumers on how to identify scams and illegal business practices.

Before going shopping or donating to charity this season, Herring suggests that consumers verify online retailers, pay with credit cards – because those transactions are covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act – know the store’s refund policy before making purchases and keep all receipts.

Consumers shopping online should look for “https” at the beginning of web addresses to ensure site security and look for any spelling errors or low-resolution images, both of which could be potential warning signs for fraudulent websites.

Residents applying for seasonal jobs should take extra precaution to ensure that they are applying for legitimate positions with valid companies. Job listings that offer high pay rates or fail to disclose basic company information – such as contact information – should be avoided. Herring warns residents never to give their social security number out before vetting the position and company.

Before donating this holiday season, verify the charities with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs and avoid making wire transfers.

Gift cards can be purchased at most retail stores, including grocery stores. Consumers should avoid buying gift cards secondhand or from online sales. Always keep receipts of purchased gift cards and look for expiration dates or terms that limit the gift card’s use.

Older residents should be aware of “grandparent scams,” where scammers can pose as a friend of a grandchild in need and ask for money. Herring warns older Virginians to never give their credit card information over the phone or through the mail or to pay cash to salespeople that approach their homes.

Read about the Consumer Protection Section online.

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Virginia Attorney General warns shoppers of holiday scams, expands consumer protection