The New York Department of State’s Consumer Protection Division (DCP) today announced the rollout of a five-part consumer alert series to help cost-conscious New Yorkers navigate the holiday shopping season. In the coming weeks, consumers will receive guidance on charity scams, credit cards, gift cards, refunds, returns and warranties. In this first consumer alert, DCP wants to empower New Yorkers with actionable fraud prevention tips, so they have greater awareness and control when shopping online.
“This holiday season, it’s a one-two punch for cost-conscious New Yorkers as they battle rising prices and ever-evolving scams,” said New York Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection. “New Yorkers need to know how to spot fake online reviews, fake texts impersonating package delivery companies and they should never keep their credit cards on file for future purchases. There are laws to protect consumers, but consumers also need to know how to protect themselves from scammers this holiday season.”
The convenience of shopping online creates both opportunities and challenges for consumers. One of the major challenges is figuring out what is real or fake as scammers find new, more sophisticated ways to trick consumers.
Shop Safely Online with these Tips:
- Don’t rush when buying online: Technology has simplified the way we shop. With a click of a button, we can quickly shop multiple sites, browse hundreds of items, comparison shop, find deals, read consumer reviews and make purchase decisions for a variety of items. Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from.
- Be careful when shopping on social media: Social media commerce is gaining ground among shoppers, and according to experts it’s growing three times faster than traditional ecommerce. As more consumers browse and shop directly on social media platforms, we urge consumers to pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews. Avoid placing orders on these copycat sites for products that will never arrive.
- Shop on trusted sites with retailers known to you. Consumers are exposed to hundreds of retailer websites, and some promote products that may not meet their expectation by offering a poor-quality version of the advertised item. Some consumers have also reported not receiving any product at all. Use caution on trusted sites that host items for third-party sellers.
- Beware of third-party vendors. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments, and most importantly do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.
- Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers.
- Learn how to spot a fake review: Watch out for fake reviews online. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specifics. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective. Also look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person.
- Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want.
Don’t be Fooled by Package and Delivery Scams:
- Keep track of your packages. Package tracking and delivery scams are common during the holidays. Review the tracking information for your package and note any issues right away through the retailer’s websites.
- Beware of phishing attempts. Another common scam this time of year is scammers using phishing emails and text messages to impersonate delivery companies (e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx), banking and credit card companies, and other large retailers (e.g., Netflix, PayPal, eBay, Amazon), which often include links to sites attempting to steal your information. Always open a browser and type the company’s website address yourself instead of clicking on a link in an email or text message.
Tips for Using Credit Cards Online:
- Check the website’s encryption; It’s easier than you think. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that the website’s address begins with “https” and that there is a closed lock on the website address bar or unbroken key symbol in the lower portion of your window.
- Don’t keep the credit card on file for future purchases. Provide your credit card number each time you make a purchase.
- Designate one credit card and one email address for online shopping. This will allow for easy review of purchases and provide protection in case of a dispute.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer