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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2021 > Ohio Attorney General Offers Online Shopping Advice

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Ohio Attorney General Offers Online Shopping Advice

Retail stores’ holiday decorations seem to pop up earlier and earlier every year. Before you know it, the winter holidays will be here, so it’s best to prepare early to shop smart.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost offers the following holiday consumer protection tips:
  • Beware of e-skimming while shopping online: Cybercriminals can capture your personal information by inserting skimming code into the payment processes of unsecure or fake websites. To avoid that trouble, look for the “s” in “https” in the website address to ensure the site is secure, and always double-check that the site you’re on is the legitimate site for the company. Also, when possible, use credit cards instead of debit cards because credit cards have more protections.
  • Plan before you shop: Review ads carefully and compare deals. Important exclusions and limitations must be disclosed in ads, even online, so check the details to see if limited quantities of an item are available for sale, if the sale price is valid only during certain hours, or if other terms and conditions apply.
  • Research online reviews: Be skeptical of reviews posted with generic names and profiles that do not have a photo; they could be impersonating a legitimate shopper. You can cross-reference customer reviews of the same products on different websites: If you see consistent reviews on several online stores, that may add validity to the feedback.
  • Beware of package tracking scams: In a package tracking scam, you may receive an email alerting you of a delay in the shipping of a package. The email will either ask you to provide personal information or click on a link for additional information. But providing personal information could lead to financial harm or infect your computer with malware. Keep track of which retailers you’ve ordered from, in addition to your shipping confirmation emails. Don’t click on links if you’re not certain the sender is legitimate.
  • Check return policies: In Ohio, sellers can set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns.” But if they have a policy that limits your ability to get a refund, they must clearly notify you of that policy before you complete the purchase. Also, be sure to check return periods as they may change during the holidays.
  • Be aware of third-party sellers: Many companies offer the ability for multiple venders to sell products on their website. When purchasing an item from a company website, ensure you know if you are purchasing the item from that company or a third-party seller. The company’s refund polices and warranties may differ from those of a third-party seller.
  • Look out for “free” offers that renew automatically: Before signing up for a free trial of a product or service, check the details, especially if you are asked to provide your credit card number or pay for shipping and handling. In many cases, signing up for the offer will automatically enroll you in a program that incurs charges on a regular basis.
  • Compare gift cards: Not all gift cards are alike, so review the terms and conditions before you buy. In general, most gift cards must last at least five years, but fees may vary depending on the type of card, such as a single-store card or a prepaid network-branded card that can be used almost anywhere. Also, promotional cards like those that come free with a purchase may not have the same protections.
  • Keep your receipts: Maintaining a complete record of a sale will help you handle problems if they arise after the purchase. Keep copies of receipts, sales agreements, advertisements, photos of products and other documentation of a sale until the transaction and billing process are complete.
  • Check delivery dates and fees: Carefully review the expected delivery date and shipping costs before you make a purchase. Find out whether you’ll be charged return shipping or restocking fees if you return the product. Also, pick up delivered packages promptly so they’re not stolen or damaged outside your door.
  • Monitor your accounts: Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity. If you find problems, immediately notify your credit card provider or bank. The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.
Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or who want help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.