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Holiday consumer safety tips

Tuesday, December 17, 2013   by: Staff



Holiday consumer safety tips

This bulletin was prepared to provide an overview of scams that consumers should be aware of during the holiday season and to provide a list of warnings to help consumers and businesses protect themselves.

Buying and selling merchandise online

Consumers need to be vigilant when buying and selling online.

The internet has made buying, selling and renting convenient for consumers and the scammers.

Every year there are hot ticket items like gaming systems and toys that are sold out in retail stores.

Scammers will set up web sites or list these items for sale on classified and auction web sites.

Consumers pay for the item but it’s never received.

Buyers must do their due diligence and are encouraged to fully review feedback and to deal with companies or individuals that they know by reputation or from past experience.

If the buyer is not familiar with a particular seller, they should independently verify who they are.

A good rule of thumb - if the asking price of a product is too good to be true…it is.

Consumers selling goods online should be suspicious of any payment that is more than the agreed selling price.

Whether it is a cheque (cashier or corporate cheque) or money received through online payment provider like Paypal or email money transfer, if the amount is more than the agreed selling price and the buyer requests the excess funds to be returned, it is a scam.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

Check the seller’s feedback that you are considering buying from.

Do not buy from a new or seller with negative reviews.

If you do, be prepared as you may lose your money because you did not heed the signs.

Consumers are encouraged to deal with companies or individuals that they know by reputation or from past experience.

If the consumer is not familiar with a particular company, independently verify their physical address and phone number.

Never make a deal outside the auction site.

Read the terms and conditions, understand payment options, return policy and product warranty.

There are many ways to send money, but not all of them offer fraud protection.

Verify the fraud coverage with the payment method that you choose to use.

The use of an Internet Payment Service or paying by credit card is often the most secure.

Counterfeit products

Many web sites that appear to be selling popular brands could actually be counterfeit.

Counterfeiters have become proficient in producing web sites that have the same look and feel as the legitimate manufacturer.

Counterfeit products are far inferior and in many cases could pose a significant health risk to consumers.

For example, counterfeit jackets have been found to contain bacteria, fungus and mildew.

Consumers should do their due diligence and thoroughly research an online store or web site prior to making a purchase.

Confirm that you are dealing with the actual manufacturer and look for any warnings posted on their web site.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

Be wary if a product is listed below the normal retail price, if it seems too good to be true... it is.

Use a credit card when shopping online, customers are offered protection and may receive a refund.

Although email money transfers or debit cards are legitimate, an offer of protection for counterfeit products purchased online is currently not available.

Inspect the web site thoroughly.

Often counterfeit web sites will contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

Online manufacturers generally use their own company email account.

If a web based email like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo is listed on the web site under their contact details, this is a huge red flag and further research is recommended.

Charitable donations

Tis the season of giving, but it is also the season for scammers to take advantage of the generosity of consumers.

Fake charities often use names that are very close to the names of legitimate and respected charities.

The end of the year is a peak season for charities to solicit for donations; it is also the peak season for scammers to defraud the public.

When natural disasters such as a hurricane or typhoon devastates a region, legitimate charities will often send out special solicitation requests asking for donations to assist with relief efforts.

The scammers will use these disasters as a way to solicit funds from consumers with little or none of the donations reaching the intended victims.

Consumers should do their due diligence and thoroughly research a charity or organization before committing to make a donation.

Warning signs - How to protect yourself

Be wary of unsolicited phone calls using high pressure tactics.

Never give out personal or financial information over the phone or at the door.

Someone calls and thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.

An incoming call could be a person misrepresenting a legitimate charity so ensure your money is really assisting; contact the charity directly and see if they are soliciting and request a written breakdown of where you donation goes.

If it is a legitimate charity they will wait for their donation.

Search Revenue Canada’s web site, all registered charities can be searched by name or by their charitable registration number.


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