Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams

HARRISBURG — As the holiday season arrives, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is warning Pennsylvanians to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.

“Thanksgiving reminds us how much we have to be thankful for, but the holiday season also brings deceptive advertising and online scams,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “These kinds of scams get more sophisticated every year. Be vigilant and follow these tips from the Office of Attorney General to protect yourself from Grinches looking to steal your hard-earned money.”

Attorney General Shapiro warned Pennsylvania consumers to be on the lookout for:

The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.

Skimming Devices: During the holidays last year, police were called to a retailer at the King of Prussia mall to remove a skimming device from one store’s register. Sometimes skimming devices are placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump or register.

“We’ve seen consumers lose between $75 and $2,000 on skimming devices,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “The best defense against scammers using these illegal devices is to closely monitor your credit card statements and bank accounts. If you believe you’ve been a victim of a skimming device, call our Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or email us at scams@attorneygeneral.gov .”

“Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.

Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal inputted credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.

Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.

Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases. This is a sure sign of a scam.

“The Office of Attorney General wants you and your family to enjoy the holidays,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “By following these tips and using some common sense, you can avoid scams and enjoy your shopping experience as well. Happy Holidays!”

Pennsylvanians who believe they have been victims of a holiday scam can file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov . To receive scam alerts from the Office of Attorney General on your Apple or Android device, please visit www.attorneygeneral.gov/Sign_Up_for_Alerts.aspx .