Attorney General Offers Safe Holiday Shopping Tips
Story By: Brigitte Coles
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Original Published: 11/28/2013
As Ohioans prepare for the holiday season, Attorney General Mike DeWine today is sharing tips for staying safe when shopping in stores or online.
“We want Ohioans to have a safe and happy holiday season, free of scams and thefts,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It’s a busy time of year, and distractions can put us at greater risk for problems.
Fortunately, taking a few proactive steps can go a long way to keeping you and your family safe.
” Top tips for safe shopping at stores or malls:
• Reduce distractions, such as using a cell phone, while walking to your car, especially at night.
• Always park in well-lit areas.
• Limit the number of valuables you carry to minimize potential loss.
• Never leave personal items or packages in plain sight in your vehicle. This includes money (even loose change), credit cards, cell phones, laptops, tablets, purses, and GPS units.
• Do not carry multiple packages at once. Use will-call and curbside package pickup services instead. Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location.
• Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.
• Do not load packages in your trunk right before leaving your vehicle. Someone could be watching.
To help local law enforcement catch thieves who break into cars, Attorney General DeWine’s office provides the BCI Bait Car, which is wired with cameras and recording devices that allow law enforcement to watch activity remotely.
Law enforcement can utilize the tool in high break-in areas or during a busy shopping season in a mall parking lot.
Since 2010, BCI has had 43 requests for the BCI Bait Car, and Attorney General DeWine encourages law enforcement to continue utilizing the tool to fight crime.
In addition to protecting themselves while shopping at stores or malls, consumers also should protect themselves while shopping online.
Every year, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section receives thousands of complaints involving online shopping.
Top tips for safe shopping online:
• Check a website’s reputation before making a purchase. Look for complaints filed with the Attorney General and Better Business Bureau and do a basic Internet search with the website’s name and the word “scam” to look for potential red flags.
• Keep your computer, smartphone, tablet, and any other device you use for shopping updated with the latest security software, programs, and apps.
• Be skeptical of “free” offers, especially if you have to provide your credit card number for shipping and handling. You may start to receive monthly charges when the free trial period ends unless you directly cancel.
• Make sure a website is secure before entering your information. The web address should say “https.” The “s” indicates that the connection is secure.
• Only give out personal information that is necessary to complete the transaction.
• Look for the refund policy. Review the terms and conditions carefully before purchasing.
• Check your accounts regularly. This may help you identify fraudulent charges or identity theft.
Consumers who want to learn more about their rights or report a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
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