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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2013 > Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams

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Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams

Retail stores everywhere are advertising online deals for the holiday season. With all of the email offers, website ads, and links posted on social media, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between what is real and what is a scam. Many of those advertisements are ploys for you to click on malicious links or unknowingly reveal your personal information.

Have you ever received a text message stating, “You’ve won a free gift card” to a well-known retail store? In order to claim the gift card, however, you must first click on a link or call a phone number listed in the text message. Beware! By clicking on the link or calling the number, you are verifying that you received the text message. You may continue to receive more unsolicited text messages or phone calls.  
Fake offers are not limited to text messages. Many scammers also design emails and social media advertisements using the logo and layout of legitimate companies. The scammer might include a link to a “too good to be true” sale and instruct the consumer to click on the link in order to receive the deal. In reality, this is just a ploy to obtain personal information, such as your credit or debit card number. In some cases, clicking on the link may even download a malicious virus to your computer, which may put your computer — and any information on your computer — at risk.
Follow these tips to protect yourself this holiday season:
  • Never respond to unsolicited text messages, even if the message includes the name of a well-known retail store.
  • Before entering payment information, make sure that the website is secure. The URL should begin with “https,” not “http.”
  • Rather than clicking on links displayed in emails or on social media websites, visit the store’s website directly to learn about the latest deals.
  • Update your computer’s anti-virus software regularly, and never click on suspicious links or “too good to be true” advertisements.   
  • When shopping online, consider using a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act provides consumers with certain protections that other payment methods do not.
  • Use strong and complex passwords for online retail accounts, and change them often.
  • When shopping online, never provide payment via wire-transfer or prepaid credit card. Scammers prefer these two payment methods because they are difficult to trace.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.