(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—As Ohioans prepare for the holiday season, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today shared consumer tips and information to help avoid shopping season scammers’ attempts to ruin your holiday celebration. DeWine also revealed smart shopper secrets for spending.
“The average person will spend more than $800 this holiday season,” said Attorney General DeWine. “We want you to be smart with your money by watching for hidden fees and fine print terms. And we want you to avoid the greedy Grinches – scammers -- who are waiting to steal your Christmas, Kwanza, and Hanukkah.”
Attorney General DeWine’s 12 Tips to a scam-free and smart shopping season include:
- Layaway plans: The hot trend for holiday shopping this year is buying on layaway. And while you can get your wish list by paying little by little, be careful. If you fall behind in payments, you could lose the item and the money you’ve put into it. It’s very important to understand all layaway terms before you sign up.
- Buying goods and services: If you’re buying a major appliance or other big-ticket item, check return policies, restocking fees, and warranty agreements. Read the fine print of extended service and finance agreements.
- Gym memberships: During the holidays, who doesn’t think about joining a gym?! Under Ohio consumer law, you generally have three business days to cancel gym memberships or other specific kinds of prepaid entertainment contracts such as dance studios, diet centers, dating agencies, or martial arts schools.
- Advance fee loan scams: If you’re looking for extra holiday cash, beware of advance fee loan scams, in which con artists make false promises to give consumers a loan or line of credit. If you have to pay an upfront fee to secure, insure, or qualify for a loan, it is probably a scam. Consumers who apply for online loans need to be particularly suspicious of this.
- Package scams: Beware of packages that land on your doorstep. Even if they’re official looking, they might not be. Scammers may try to send a counterfeit check or money order inside an official-looking package from a major company. No matter how it’s delivered, it’s unlikely you would receive a check for no reason, even if you think it might be a Christmas miracle. Also, watch out for the email “phishing” scam that appears to be from a shipping company, asking you to pay to for a package delivery.
- Returns and restocking fees: Who doesn’t return some things from Cousin Lisa or Uncle Joe? Just be aware that some companies charge a restocking fee (particularly for electronics) and/or allow a limited time for returns.
- Ticket scams: Special concert or football tickets would make a wonderful gift for someone on your list. Just be careful where you buy them. Third-party ticket sellers through craigslist or other Internet marketplaces sometimes provide consumers with counterfeit tickets. To ensure that tickets are legitimate, use an authorized ticket seller.
- Work-at-home scams: If you’re looking for a bit of extra cash for celebration expenses, don’t fall for the work-at-home scam offers that sound too good to be true. Consumers receive notice that they’ve been selected for a “mystery shopping job” or other employment opportunity. They’re asked to evaluate a wire transfer company by wiring money or they’re asked to set up a special account where the “employer” can deposit payment. Of course, there is no actual job; it’s all a scam.
- Online shopping: One in three of us will shop online this season. Check the seller’s ratings and make sure the site is secure for payment. Also, review the return policy, because it may include additional fees.
- Gift cards: More than half of us say we want a gift card this year. If you’re lucky enough to get one, use it quickly. If a business shuts its doors, you usually lose the value of the gift card. Most gift cards are required to last at least five years, but depending on the type of card, fees may take effect after one or two years, reducing the gift card’s value.
- Military leave scams: During the holidays, military members’ families and friends should be aware of scams asking them to pay for military leave. Scammers may pretend to be associated with the military and ask consumers to immediately send payment via transfer so that their military members can return home for the holidays.
- Rain checks: Under Ohio consumer law, consumers are entitled to rain checks if a seller runs out of a product or service advertised at a certain price. Rain checks do not apply if the seller clearly states the number of items available, that the merchandise is seasonal or clearance, or if the ad states that no rain checks will be given.
“Our Consumer Protection Section within the Ohio Attorney General’s office handles roughly 30,000 complaints each year through informal dispute resolution,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We help resolve those complaints, and we are going after more criminals who are ripping you off. Hopefully, with a little attention to our tips, your holiday will be full of nothing but cheer this year.”
For more detailed information about the consumer twelve tips, click here
Consumers who want to learn more about their rights or believe that they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
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Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Eve Mueller: 614-466-3840