Consumer tips for the holidays
Jack Conway Kentucky Attorney General
As Kentuckians generously open their wallets for those in need of a helping hand this holiday season, it’s important to remember to give wisely, ensuring that your donations are made to reputable charities. Much like storms and natural disasters, the season of giving brings out the best and worst in people, and scam artists are always discovering new schemes to take advantage of the kindness of others.
My Office of Consumer Protection and I ask that you keep the following tips in mind as you make a charitable donation this holiday season:
• Donate to charities you know and trust.
• Be cautious of sound-alike charities and solicitors unable to answer questions.
• Where possible, make donations by check or credit card rather than cash.
• Don’t be pressured into making a donation.
• Ask for identification and written information when you’re approached in person.
• Always ask what percentage of your dollar goes to the cause.
You can also utilize my office’s charitable giving database to research a charity before making a donation. The database at www.ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/charity lists which charities have registered with the Office of the Attorney General and their status.
Beware of Seasonal Phishing Scams and Identity Theft
Today, many of us turn to our smart phones, tablets and computers for our holiday shopping needs, but I encourage you to be cautious when making purchases over the Internet. Many scammers use a technique called phishing to gain access to someone’s secure information, and seasonal phishing scams often come disguised as requests for charitable contributions, electronic greeting cards, online shopping advertisements or credit card applications.
This is often done through emails that may contain links to websites infected with malware, enabling a scammer to locate user names, passwords, Social Security numbers and other personal data.
Taking a few proactive steps can help keep you safe when shopping online:
• Only do business with companies you know and trust and that offer secure payment processing. Look for websites that start with https, (the “s” stands for secure).
• To protect yourself against seasonal phishing scams, verify the communication by calling the company or by logging into your account directly from the business’ website.
• Never do business with someone who insists that you wire money.
• Using credit cards while shopping online can offer extra protection. Consider designating one credit card with a lower credit limit for online purchases.
• Keep personal information private. Don’t disclose your address, phone number, Social Security number or bank account information to a stranger.
• Never respond to emails or pop-up ads that ask for your personal or financial information.
• Avoid storing credit card information online.
• When buying a gift card, only buy from reputable sources that you know and trust. It is also wise to give the recipient the terms and conditions point of sale material, as well as the receipt confirming the amount purchased on the card. Additionally, consumers should avoid buying gift cards from online auction or “for sale” listing sites, as they can be counterfeit.
If you are the victim of a consumer scam, help is available by contacting the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or by visiting ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection.
My office has also designed a step-by-step toolkit that can help you in the unfortunate event your identity is stolen. In it, you’ll find a checklist complete with information and the telephone numbers of agencies that can assist you along the way. You can get the toolkit, as well as tips to keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft at ag.ky.gov/idtheft.
Check Ratings When Buying Video Games
I also want to remind parents and caregivers across the Commonwealth that while they are shopping this holiday season, they should be aware of the valuable tools they can use to monitor the content of their children’s video games and computer games.
A recently launched national PSA campaign encourages families to utilize the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game rating system and video game console parental controls. The ratings are designed to help give parents some guidance about the appropriateness of games they choose for their families. Using the game console parental controls, parents can even block games they don’t want their children to play.
Making the right entertainment decisions for my children is incredibly important, and this initiative will help keep parents informed when buying video games for their families. You can watch the PSA online at http://tinyurl.com/le2dcjj.
Keeping consumers safe is one of my top priorities as your Attorney General. I hope you and your family have a safe and blessed holiday season.
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