Cheyenne, Wyo. - With Black Friday and the holiday season just around the corner, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office is urging consumers to take steps to safeguard personal information and protect themselves against scams. Whether taking advantage of Black Friday deals, shopping online, or donating to charity, the following tips could save consumers a lot of trouble this holiday season.
Be wary of using public or shared internet for online shopping. While free Wi-Fi networks at airports, hotels, or coffee shops are convenient, they are not always secure.
Shop from secure sites. Look for “https” (“s” stands for secure) in the web address and a padlock icon in the browser window.
Beware of fake antivirus/computer protection downloads. Fake antivirus software is often used to trick people into believing their computer is at risk or already infected, so they agree to download and pay for phony software which may compromise personal information.
Be cautious of “free” gift card offers, especially through social media sites such as Facebook. There may be risks associated with revealing your personal information just to participate in a promotion.
Confirm a working customer service phone number before making online purchases from an unfamiliar retailer.
Be suspicious of unfamiliar websites offering products at unbelievably low prices.
Avoid unsolicited emails, text messages, and pop-up advertisements.
Donate to well-known charities. This will help you avoid donating to sham charities that pop up during the holiday season and disappear just as quickly.
Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known charities. These names are often intended to confuse donors.
Do not assume that the organization is tax exempt. You can check an organization’s tax status at www.irs.gov/app/eos.
Do not respond to emails soliciting donations for any organizations. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website.
Ask cold callers to send information in the mail. Authentic charities will be happy to send additional information in the mail.
Monitor your financial statements closely during and after the holiday season.
Never give personal or financial information over the phone, especially to a cold caller.
Avoid “free trial” offers. Consumers may be agreeing to monthly shipments and recurring charges by signing up for “free offers”.
Become familiar with the merchant’s refund and return policies before completing a purchase.
Never wire money, send cash, or prepaid gift cards to someone you do not know.
Beware of any sweepstakes or prizes that require you to pay money in order to receive money.
Save your receipts for all purchases in case you need to return or exchange items.
If a deal just sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
The Consumer Protection Unit at the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office aims to educate and protect Wyoming consumers, and enforce Wyoming’s Consumer Protection Act. For updates and important information for consumers, follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/WYCPU), Twitter (@WYCPU), or call toll-free at 1-800-438-5799.