CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminds consumers to use caution and protect their personal information as the online holiday shopping season begins with Cyber Monday.

“The holiday shopping season can be very busy and, at times, exhilarating,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “As consumer activity picks up, we urge consumers to be vigilant, aware of potential scams and protect their personally identifiable information as they purchase gifts for loved ones.”

The Attorney General recommends that consumers limit their use of debit cards, pay close attention to holiday credit card offers and be aware of fraudulent websites or coupons that resemble the real thing.

Credit cards, whether shopping online or in store, provide the best protection to dispute charges when goods or services do not arrive as promised. Debit cards, in contrast, are no different than cash and come with no special protection.

Holiday credit card offers require a close reading of the contract. Deferred interest promotions may promise zero-percent interest through December 2020, but failure to pay off the entire balance by the promotion period’s end could stick the consumer with an interest charge dating back to the item’s original purchase date.

In-store shoppers also should leave Social Security cards and other non-essential information at home, lock presents away in the trunk, watch for skimming devices and use a RFID blocking sleeve or wallet to protect credit/debit cards from electronic pickpockets.

Online shoppers also should watch for spelling mistakes, low-quality images and ensure URL addresses legitimately match the known retailer’s website. These tips will help consumers identify fraudulent websites or illegitimate coupon offers hastily created to steal money and personal information.

Consumers should rely upon secure payment systems, avoid money transfers to unknown people and make sure any payment website starts with “https://” as the “s” indicates a secure page.

Anyone who feels as though they have been scammed while shopping should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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