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Attorney general urges holiday shoppers to be on the alert

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at his office

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at his office on Broadway, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bachner

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is urging holiday shoppers seeking out price cuts to protect their purchases and be aware of fraudsters during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

About 164 million people nationwide are expected to be out at malls and other retailers and shopping online over the holiday weekend, according to a National Retailers Federation survey.

Bargain hunters should check sale prices carefully and understand there could be hidden fees; read the fine print on return polices and gift card purchases; and shop online using a secure internet connection while also being aware of fake shopping sites.

“As New Yorkers begin making holiday purchases for family and friends, they should know that some deals are too good to be true,” Schneiderman said in a statement Friday. “We encourage consumers to . . . ensure they spend their money wisely and safely this holiday season.

Here are Schneiderman’s tips:

  • Beware of misleading bargains and added fees. The “sale” price may have been marked up before it was marked down — nullifying the impact of the sale. Often, the touted “sale” price may, in fact, be significantly higher than the price for that same item later in the season.
  • Make sure you read the terms of any warranty to learn what protections you get and the duration of those protections. This could significantly affect that cost of an item over the long run.
  • Know the terms of a layaway plan. The law requires merchants to give a detailed description of the merchandise to be purchased on layaway plans, including the duration of the plan, the required payment schedule, the consequences of missing payments and the refund policy.
  • Check return and refund policies. The law requires all merchants to post their refund policies. Be especially vigilant of “final sales” or “cash-only — final sale” notices, as you will have little or no recourse if the merchandise proves to be defective.
  • Be sure to read the terms and conditions of gift cards before purchasing. It is illegal to deduct any fees for nonuse within 25 months of purchase or to have an expiration date of less than five years from issuance.
  • Shop only on secure internet connections. Do not conduct any transaction that involves personal, financial, or credit card information while using an open and unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Be careful not to shop, conduct business or send sensitive or personal information out on these networks because identity thieves often stake out open networks seeking victims.
  • Do not be tricked by confusingly similar website and domain names. Pay particular attention to your retailer’s URL when shopping online. Scammers use variants of a known company’s internet address to try and lure users into visiting fake websites, often targeting users through email or social media. Avoid clicking on links from email or social media sites.
  • Protect yourself by using credit or debit cards. Identity thieves are now more sophisticated and dangerous than ever. If you are going to make purchases online, you can best protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud by using credit or debit cards.
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true contests and prize promotions. Consumers should be suspicious of any email, messages or posts on social networks promoting giveaways or contests that seem too good to be true. These “contests” are often scams designed to bilk consumers out of money and/or to collect consumers’ personal information for resale.
  • Read the fine print. Broadly worded promotional offers and advertisements often mislead consumers into paying full price for items they believed were on sale.

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