CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers to make wise decisions when looking online for that perfect holiday gift for family and loved ones.
The warning is part of his office's Holiday Consumer Protection Week. Each day during the week of Dec. 4, the office is issuing a holiday-related release detailing tips on how to keep West Virginia consumers from falling prey to any holiday misfortune.
“The holidays are an opportunity for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company during this very cheerful and festive time of year,” Morrisey said. “We want the holidays to be safe and enjoyable for all West Virginians.
“Shopping online is an easy and convenient way to purchase gifts without having to fight the crowds. It’s also an easy way for personal information to unknowingly make its way into the wrong hands so consumers need to be extra careful.”
The office said consumers shopping online can do a few things to safeguard their personal information:
* Make sure websites start with https://, which verifies a secure connection.
* Look out for fake websites that mimic a company’s legitimate web address. Carefully check the web address as scammers can slightly shorten and manipulate it in ways that are not easily noticeable.
* Avoid unfamiliar websites with discounts or deals that seem unrealistic and too good to be true.
* Be wary of social media sites offering vouchers or gift cards as they could be a means to retrieve personal information.
* Don’t use public Wi-Fi when entering credit card information for online purchases.
* Be wary of websites that ask for unusual forms of payment. It’s always best to pay with a credit card.
* Don’t wire money. It’s like cash — once it’s gone, it can’t be returned. This is especially true with foreign entities.
* Frequently check credit and bank statements to catch any fraudulent purchases.
* Know return policies and ask for receipts and gift receipts.
The office says some consumers may find it easier to use apps when shopping online and should take precautions to ensure the app is legitimate. Scammers can create apps to lure consumers into purchasing a “great deal,” but the app is actually used to steal personal information from the consumer’s phone and infect it with malware. Read customer reviews and check for typos or run-on sentences in descriptions.
Anyone with questions regarding questionable online purchasing practices is asked to contact 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 http://www.wvago.gov.