Kansas AG offers tips to save holiday shopers from fraud

With the holiday shopping season well under way, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline says Kansans can avoid becoming the victim of a scam.

“Whether your objective is to get the most for your money or you simply want to avoid falling victim to con artists, you need to make educated, cautious decisions especially during this frenzied time of year,” Kline said.

The attorney general offers these tips that will minimize your chances of being sadly surprised while playing Santa Claus during this festive season:

— Do not pre-print your driver’s license, Social Security number or phone numbers on your check.

— Always be cautious when asked to give account numbers to anyone, especially over the telephone. Treat financial information like the keys to your house, because they are the keys to your bank accounts and financial well-being.

— Be sure to pay careful attention to your bank and credit card statements during and after the holiday shopping season. Be on the lookout for charges or debits that you do not remember making and for duplicate charges.

Most financial institutions and credit card companies provide access to your accounts online or over to phone so you can monitor transactions throughout the month rather than waiting until the next billing statement comes in the mail.

If you find a discrepancy, notify your bank or credit provider immediately to preserve your legal rights.

— Do not buy an item that is the subject of a recall or negative reviews as it relates to product safety. Check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov), the Federal Citizen Information Center (www.pueblo.gsa.gov) and Consumer Reports magazine before purchasing “big ticket” items.

— Plan ahead for returns. Understand the merchant’s refund or return policy before making a purchase.

Return policies vary from store to store, and many offer exchanges or in-store credit only. Internet or catalog purchases may not allow any returns, require the shopper to pay for return shipping costs, or charge a restocking fee.

— Beware when buying used items. Many safeguards such as the Kansas Consumer Protection Act and recourse to the Better Business Bureau do not exist when buying from an individual and not a retail establishment.

It is always good to get assurance, in writing, that an item sold as “used” will function as represented.

— Take time to review the terms and conditions of a manufacturer’s warranty before purchasing an additional or extended warranty. The fine print must reveal limitations in coverage, duration and events that will nullify the warranty.

Some add-on warranties do little beyond that offered by the manufacturer’s warranty, while others offer many tangible benefits.

— Ask about gift cards and gift certificate policies. Such handy gifts cannot be redeemed for cash in most instances, and sometimes have other restrictions and limitations. Expiration dates must also be noted.

It is best to purchase gift cards or gift certificates from reputable, financially sound merchants because if a merchant goes out of business the gift card is worthless.

— Read the fine print on rebates. Rebates can save you money, but only if you submit them properly and on time.

Read the fine print on the rebate form before you make a purchase and immediately submit it after you buy.

Be sure to keep a copy of everything that you send in with the rebate coupon and get some kind of proof of delivery to show when you mailed the forms and when the company received it. Understand that rebate claims can take months to process, so be patient.

For more information or to file a complaint, write Attorney General Phill Kline, Consumer Protection Division, 120 SW 10th Ave., 2nd Floor, Topeka, Kansas 66612, or call the toll-free Consumer Hotline, 1-800-432-2310.

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