Jefferson City, Mo. – With the busy holiday shopping season here, Attorney General Chris Koster today released tips for Missouri consumers to protect themselves.
“Many Missourians will take advantage of holiday sales in person and online,” said Koster. “We want to ensure that consumers get their deals as promised.”
Koster offers the following tips for consumers who are doing holiday shopping:
•Bring paper or electronic copies of special advertising. As retailers release special holiday deals online, in social media, and in publications, bring the advertisements with you when you shop to verify that the price is what you expected and were promised.
•Research merchants before you shop. Find out how long they have been in business and look into their customer service track record. Use the Attorney General’s online “Know Mo” portal to check for complaints against specific businesses.
•Make sure you understand return and exchange polices. Don’t be surprised by restocking fees or deals with limited return or exchange windows. Always read the fine print. Hold on to documentation of your purchase and remember to request a gift receipt. A printed gift receipt protects the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange an item at the full value you paid for it. When shopping online, remember to retain a copy of the final confirmation.
•Be aware of sales advertised only for certain days or hours in the day. In addition to applying only to particular product models, many specials are also restricted to specific dates and times.
•Be on the lookout for bait-and-switch tactics, designed to draw you in but then push you toward more expensive items. Insist that retailers honor advertised deals and products.
▪Make purchases with a credit card. Using a debit card to make a purchase online puts you in potential danger, as the card is linked directly to a personal account. You become vulnerable as scam artists will have full access to your balance and account. In contrast, with a credit card, you are spending a specific amount of loaned money from a bank. Every purchase has to be approved by the bank. If your credit card is used to make a fraudulent purchase without your permission, inform your bank and it will cancel the payment.
When buying gifts online, the Attorney General recommends taking precautions to ensure your transactions are secure. Shop with online retailers you know and trust. When entering credit card information, be sure that an “https” precedes the website in your browser’s address bar as the “s” indicates use of a more secure protocol. Most if not all browsers will display a locked padlock icon when you navigate to a secure site.
Missouri consumers who suspect deceptive advertising or other unfair business practices should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint online at: http://ago.mo.gov/divisions/consumer/consumer-complaints.