CHARLESTON— West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has urged consumers doing Valentine’s Day shopping to be mindful of scams that take advantage of those who will be making those purchases online.
In 2013, consumers spent more than $13 billion on cards, candy and gifts for their Valentine, but not all of those gifts were sweet – some consumers ended up with more than they bargained for after falling victim to various online phishing scams.
While searching for the right gift for that special someone sometimes can be a stressful process, our office encourages all consumers to follow these tips when doing their online Valentine’s Day shopping:
* Be wary of unsolicited direct offers to your inbox. Some scammers will use very authentic-looking messages to convince the recipient that an unbelievable deal is legitimate. If the offer interests you, visit the retailer’s website or call them directly to verify the offer.
* If you receive a message notifying you of a problem with your purchase and it asks you to resubmit your credit card information, verify with the retailer the issue before you submit. Messages like these tend to come close to the deadline and prey off a sense of urgency.
* Do your research: If you see an e-mail or online offer from an unfamiliar company, look for such things as a physical address or a telephone number. Call and speak with someone at the business to determine if it is a legitimate business.
* Make sure the online retailer’s website is secure. When placing your order, you should see either "https://" or a padlock in your browser’s address bar. This lets consumers know the retailer has the proper encryption technology to protect financial information.
* Shop with companies based in the United States. These companies are subject to state and consumer federal laws that overseas companies may not be.
Consumers also should be aware of free Valentine’s Day “e-cards” or greetings that ask to download a program or request sensitive information to see the greeting. Scammers are able to exploit weaknesses in a user’s computer with these malware programs that have the potential to skim usernames, passwords and account numbers without the user knowing.
“Being able to buy and send gifts online is convenient, but consumers should do their homework and take the steps necessary to prevent identity theft and protect their financial information from scammers and illegitimate businesses,” Morrisey said in statement. “These scammers always get more active around special days on the calendar, so it’s important that consumers don’t allow them to get away with these kinds of deceptive tactics.”