Tips for avoiding Christmastime scams
Attorney General Todd Rokita is warning Hoosiers to watch for scams while finishing their holiday shopping this year.
“Christmas should be about celebrating faith and family and friends,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Amid each year’s festivities, though, it seems we must always contend with shameless con artists determined to defraud generous Hoosiers and separate them from their hard-earned money.”
Scammers are known to look for rushed, unsuspecting victims.
“This time of year,” Attorney General Rokita said, “individuals most absorbed in the season’s traditions could become easy prey to fraudsters. That includes shoppers hurrying to finish buying all the gifts on their lists. I encourage everyone to exercise vigilance to protect themselves.”
Attorney General Rokita offered the following tips for avoiding falling victim to scams:
– When shopping online, stick to secure websites that have “https” in the address (or a lock icon) rather than just an unsecured “http” site.
– Pay by credit card when online shopping. Always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize. You can reverse charges or dispute a charge with your credit card company if necessary. It is more difficult to dispute charges on your debit card or obtain cash back.
– If you are purchasing gift cards, make sure you know the expiration date, as well as the terms that apply to the card. Keep receipts associated with gift cards in case they do not get properly activated to the amount you paid.
– Also on the subject of gift cards: Remember that any solicitor who contacts you by phone or email and asks you to pay with a gift card is no doubt a scammer. Do not cooperate with anyone making such a pitch.
– When shopping at physical store locations, conceal your purchases in the trunk of your vehicle or under the seat rather than leaving them in plain sight through windows. Also keep a close watch on purses and wallets when walking through shopping areas.
– Stave off “porch pirates” by making sure home exteriors stay well-lit. Follow a plan for the arrival of home deliveries, such as arranging for trusted neighbors to receive deliveries when you’re gone. Homeowners also may consider such options as purchasing lockable drop-off boxes or security systems with cameras.
– If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Take your time to investigate and be skeptical of such deals. Ask questions. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you are purchasing exactly what you want on the terms you expect.
– Closely read emails advertising holiday deals to make sure they come from the companies they claim to represent rather than imposters and fraudsters. Consider navigating to a company’s official website through a trusted search engine rather than clicking on a link in an email.
– To protect your personal information, refrain from making online purchases while using public Wi-Fi.
– Never make hurried decisions. Scam artists want to pressure you into making a quick commitment to buy from them. Slow down and check out details for yourself.
– Research charities before donating — and follow the same online payment and security rules you would follow with online shopping. You can look up charities’ reports and ratings on these websites: Give.org; GuideStar.org; CharityWatch.org; and CharityNavigator.org.
As always, if you believe you have been subjected to a scam, file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Our office relies on Hoosiers filing complaints to know which companies or individuals to investigate. A consumer complaint can be filed at indianaconsumer.com — or you can contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-382-5516.