CLARKSBURG, WV (WBOY) – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a reminder to West Virginians to use caution, shop wisely and protect their personal information as the holiday shopping season kicks off.
“Whether you choose to wait in line at a brick-and-mortar store or shop online from the comfort of your home, it’s important to beware of seasonal scams,” Morrisey said. “Scammers take advantage of increased consumer activity during the holidays, and every transaction is an opportunity for a fraudster to steal your money or identity. Don’t let buying gifts result in personal information ending up in the wrong hands.”
Morrisey’s office says consumers should limit how much they use their debit cards, and be aware that some fradulent websites or coupons may look real.
According to the attorney general, whether you’re using them in-store or for online shopping, credit cards provide the best protection to dispute charges for promised goods or services that do not arrive. He says debit cards, however, come with no special protection and are no different than using cash.
Morrisey’s office also recommends people going to shop in-store should leave Social Security cards and other non-essential information at home, lock presents away in the trunk of their vehicle, watch for skimming devices and use an RFID blocking sleeve or wallet to protect credit and debit cards from electronic pickpockets.
While online shopping is always popular, it may see an even bigger surge this holiday season due to COVID-19, but it can also bring risks, Morrisey said.
To check make sure the website your on is not a scam, online shoppers should watch out for spelling mistakes, low-quality images and ensure URL addresses legitimately match the known retailer’s website. Morrisey says following these tips will help consumers identify fraudulent websites or illegitimate coupon offers hastily created to steal money and personal information.
Another tip from the attorney general’s office is to rely upon secure payment systems and avoid money transfers to unknown people, as well as make sure any payment website starts with “https://” as the “s” indicates a secure page.
Anyone who feels as though they have been scammed while shopping should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.