The Mississippi Attorney General's Office is reminding consumers to shop with caution. Jim Hood says this can help you avoid scams and identity thieves.
Some general tips from the A.G. are:
· Shop around for the best deal for your needs. Just because an item is on sale, it may not be the best price. Some stores are willing to match, or even beat, a competitors prices. In addition, carefully consider bargain offers like Buy One, Get One Free or Free Gift with Purchase. If you don't really want or need the free or gift item, it is not a deal for you.
· Use coupons wisely. Coupons are helpful when they save you money on what you are already planning to buy. Be sure to check coupons for any restrictions.
· Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, check in advance to see if you can get a credit or refund for the discounted amount.
· Ask about refund and return policies. Many merchants may have different refund and return policies for sale items. For example, clearance merchandise may be on final sale, meaning no refunds or exchanges.
· Keep an eye on your money - cash or credit. Carry only the cash and credit cards you absolutely need. Don't flash cash or credit cards for others to see. If your cards are lost or stolen, report the loss or theft immediately to the card issuers, and file a complaint with the Mississippi Attorney General's Office.
· Know your surroundings. Be very cautious when going to and from your vehicle, especially at night. Try to park in well-lit areas and keep your car keys in hand when walking back to your vehicle. Places purchases in the trunk, out of plain view.
· After the rush to stores for good deals on Black Friday, Mississippi consumers should also be smart about Cyber Monday shopping. Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, is considered one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping. When shopping online, these key tips may save you time and money:
· Research the seller and the site. Be familiar with the rules and policies of each website. Check feedback for particular sellers when applicable. Be wary of sites that have grammatical errors, broken links, or other signs that may indicate lack of trustworthiness.
· Examine the whole package. Know what you are buying and the total price. Be sure to factor in shipping costs, return policies such as restocking fees, and similar charges. Be sure you understand what methods of payment are accepted.
· Look for safety measures on the website. When making a payment online, look for signs the site is secure. Examples include "https" (the "s" stands for secure) in the address, and padlock symbol.
· Regularly update your computer's security, including anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Don't click on a link or open an attachment from an unknown source, and don't email financial information.
· Keep good records. Whether you're ordering by mail, phone, or online, it is important to keep detailed information about the transaction, including your order number, shipping costs and dates, warranties, and refund and return policies.
· Monitor your credit card transactions. Save your receipts for returns and exchanges. Check credit and debit card sales and return receipts against your monthly bills and statements, and report any problems to the credit card issuer promptly.
Hood also advises that, in all shopping, remember that exceptionally low prices, suspicious packaging, and other signs could indicate a counterfeit.
"If the price is too low, do your homework," said Hood. "A dangerous or inferior product is never a good enough deal when you are putting your life, or your family's life at risk. You also open yourself up to identity thieves who sell you the inferior product and then also steal your personal information they obtain from the purchase."
Call the Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division, at 1-800-281-4418 to report suspected fraud or scams this holiday season.