GOSHEN – Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler and Sheriff Carl E. DuBois are urging residents to remain alert for internet and social media-based shopping scams as the holiday season kicks into full gear.
“The holiday season, when people are busy and distracted, is when scammers act,” Neuhaus said. “While shopping online offers convenience and most companies are reputable, you could still become a victim. I want residents to be aware that we are here to help them. If you have a question, concern, or complaint, I urge you to contact our Consumer Affairs department, the District Attorney’s Office or local law enforcement.”
District Attorney Hoovler offered the following tips for residents who shop online during the holiday season:
• Avoid companies with poor customer service. There are two easy ways to investigate this and consumers should use both. Review a company’s Better Business Bureau rating and history (bbb.org) and conduct a web search of the company or product name using words such as “complaint” or “return.”
• Read the return policy carefully before buying. Look out for return policies that are vague or ambiguous; policies that require consumers to get “permission” to return items; and policies that require returns to be sent overseas at the customer’s expense.
• Don’t mistake a social media “like” for a review of the company’s performance. Some companies pay individuals to promote their products, and some people who share or like product photos may not have made purchases.
• Use credit cards instead of debit cards when shopping at sites new to you. Credit cards provide fraud protections that debit cards do not. Using your debit card can give criminals access to your entire bank account.
“Shoppers who don’t monitor their transactions are often victims of cyber criminals,” Hoovler said. “Consumers should shop directly on business websites, not through links for deals or offers. Shoppers should continuously confirm that the website(s) they are using are secure.”
Once your online transaction is made safely and securely, Hoovler encourages residents to remain alert. Packages are often stolen from doorsteps during the holiday season.
“Online shopping has increased and, unfortunately, so has the theft of packages,” DuBois added. “Anyone who is a victim of this crime should call 911 or their local law enforcement agency to make a report.”
Consumers who have been victims of any scams should immediately report it to local law enforcement. Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of fraud can call the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center at (877) 382-4357. For more information, contact the Orange County Consumer Affairs Office at 845-360-6703.