AG Kilmartin Offers Holiday Consumer Protection Tips

Holiday Shopping Tips

The holiday season is here and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is offering holiday shoppers important tips to help keep their wallets as full as their stockings.

“First and foremost, consider shopping local. Just as great deals can be found in big box stores and online retailers, our small businesses too offer great prices and unique gifts. And shopping local helps drive our local economy. During this season of giving, shoppers are searching for the best deals on the perfect gifts for their loved ones and it’s important that consumers are not taken advantage of. With the hustle and bustle of the season, honest pricing mistakes can be made by retailers, so it is important consumers have the information they need to ensure a merry and bright holiday season for family finances,” said Attorney General Kilmartin.

+ Retail Shopping Tips

This year if you do decide to do your shopping in stores, our Consumer Protection Unit has put together some tips to keep you feeling festive:

  • Bring ads with you while shopping to be sure prices charged match advertised prices.
  • Before making a purchase, ask if the store charges a restocking fee, and if so, how much.
    • Some stores will charge a fee for “restocking” an item that you return for a refund or credit.
    • Businesses that charge a restocking fee are supposed to disclose the fee.  The notice should be clearly visible to consumers before purchases are made.
  • Before making a purchase, ask what the return policy is. Return policies vary.
    • Refund policies must be posted at the point of display, at the cash register or at the store entrance.
  • When checking out, watch the cash register to be sure the scanned price matches the posted price.
    • Check your receipt for accuracy before leaving the store.
    • Ask for a refund right then if you have been overcharged. 
  • Check your credit card and bank statements often. 
  • Read the terms of any warranty to learn what protections may be in place and for how long. Not all warranties are the same.
  • Before you put merchandise on layaway, ask about the store’s policy. Find out how long you have to pay for everything, if there are additional charges for using the plan, and if there are fees or penalties for missed/late payments.

+ Online Shopping Tips

If you plan on doing your holiday shopping online, here are some additional tips to help protect your identity and personal information.

  • Make sure your computer has updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, updated spam filters, and a secure firewall. 
  • Use secure websites.  A secure website has an address that begins with “https” and has a small padlock near the URL or at the bottom of the page.
  • Do not click on a link or open an attachment from an unknown source. 
    • Try not to link to a website from an email.  Scam artists have been known to set up fake websites to obtain your credit card information.
  • Shop websites of businesses/retailers that you know or trust.
  • Be familiar with the policies of each web retailer.  Get details about refund policies and restocking fees as well as shipping and handling fees.
  • Make sure you read the site’s privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.  If there isn’t a privacy policy posted, it is a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without your permission.
  • Make sure the seller lists an address and phone number to call in case you have questions.
  • Pay by credit card in case you need to dispute the bill or withhold payment.
  • Print out and keep records of your purchases, and check your credit card and bank statements often. 
  • After you’ve made your purchase, consider these important tips:
    • In recent years, reports of packages being stolen from consumers’ homes have become more prevalent. If possible, have packages delivered to your place of work or to a location you know someone you trust will be there to sign for it.
    • Beware of phishing attempts. Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the consumer into revealing financial information.  If you do receive such an e-mail, call the retailer directly.  Do not reply to the e-mail and do not provide personal identifying information (i.e. your credit card or bank account information).
+ Shipping Packages Tips

Unfortunately, people are reporting packages being stolen from their front steps. Watch the video above to hear Attorney General Kilmartin's tips to help keep your packages safe this holiday season.