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Discussion Title Safe, Savvy Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping

Protect yourself and your money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — and get tips for savvy holiday shopping. Chat with representatives from the Consumer Affairs Branch and the Police Department’s Financial Crimes about online shopping safety, gift cards and how to separate genuine door busters from ho-hum deals.


Clinton Beach : Hi; thanks for joining us today. Wil Slaughter, from Consumer Affairs, along with Detective Clinton Beach, are here to answer all of your questions on safe shopping. We're looking forward to this opportunity.


Dave : I made a purchase on line with a credit card. The merchant charged me an additional 3% because I used a credit card. Is that legal?

Wil Slaughter :

A merchant can charge a fee for using a credit card as long as it is disclosed up front.  If this transaction occurred in the County of Fairfax, you can call Consumer Affairs at 703-222-8435 to file a complaint with us or to receive advice.


MIchelle : If an an item is out of stock by the time I arrive at the retailer, is the retailer required to give me a raincheck for the item?

Wil Slaughter : As far as we are aware there is no law to require the merchant to issue a raincheck, however, a reputable business should honor a request if the item is not available.


Laurie : I'd just love to see a basic fact "tips" sheet on this subject for future reference. I'm doing a lot less shopping this year - but this would be good info to know. Thank you for this opportunity to learn this way. Super of you to offer this info.

Wil Slaughter : You can visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education/ for educational information on different consumer related topics including diamond buying, door-to-door solicitors, home improvement contractors, identity theft, and more!


Allan : What are two or three new scams or tricks I should be aware of this year?

Clinton Beach : There are several. ONe that the Police Department has seen involves a "winning lottery ticket." The victim meets up with someone in parking lot of a store; in a recent case, the Springfield Costco. The victim was told that he could purchase a winning lottery ticket if he withdrew money and gave it to the suspect. He did so and, unfortunately, he lost $30,000.00 of his money. The sad lesson learned, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn't. Don't withdraw funds for any sort of lottery ticket in a parking lot; purchase tickets from authorized dealers only.       Another scam we've seen involves the purchase of vehicles on Ebay and wiring thousands of dollars without a contract or visual inspection of the vehicle prior to inspection of the purchase. We work at least a case a month where someone has wired over $10,000.00 to an unknown party in another state in hopes of receiving a vehicle delivered to them. The vehicle is never delivered and there is very little police can do. Purchase vehicles in person at local dealerships; never wire money for this purpose. We've also seen these sorts of scams on Craigslist. Be aware.     We work many scams and there are new ones coming down the pike all of the time. We ask that people, including family members of the elderly, monitor bank accounts closely during the holiday season. For examples and helpful information, go to the Financial Crimes section of the FCPD website.


Anonymous User : Well, to ask your question, how do you separate genuine door busters from ho-hum deals?

Wil Slaughter : Read the ads, evaluate the deal, research the right product, save more with price guarantees, shop other retailers.  We have shopping tips available at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education/.


Anonymous User : I'm so afraid of using my debit card these days. I've read stories about cashiers somehow swiping the card so they capture my number and then use it. How frequent is that practice? I would think it's an issue at restaurants when servers take your credit card our of your possession and eyesight. Any tips (besides using cash, which I don't want to do!). Thanks.

Clinton Beach : We ask that residents use their credit cards rather than debit cards. The debit card goes to their account and their funds can be drained; if there is an issue with a credit card, there is the possiblity of working with the banking institution to investigate the issue. We do see isolated cases of "swiping" but not as frequently as one might think. This is another important time to watch/monitor your credit accounts frequently online to make sure the numbers haven't been compromised.     We suggest leaving multiple credit cards, social security cards and other important documents at home, in a safe and secure spot, rather than taking all of them in the wallet to stores while holiday shopping. Take only the one(s) that you will need that day.


Anonymous User : Does the state or even the county have someplace where I can look up bad merchants?

Wil Slaughter : Complaints that Consumer Affairs has handled against businesses when the transaction has occured in Fairfax County are posted on our Website.  You can check them out at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/complaint_history.htm Once the complaint has been closed it will remain on public record for 3 years.  We cannot determine if a merchant is "bad" only whether the complaint was closed favorably or unfavorably. We mediate and investigate consumer complaints against businesses, tenant-landlord disputes, and cable issues if the transaction occurred in Fairfax County.  


Adam : More and more retailers are using the Square device which attaches to an iphone to allow a credit card to be swiped. Are those safe?

Clinton Beach : I have a hard time saying that anyone is every completely "safe" from theft. But, there are measures people can take to help protect themselves. For example, there is a protective sleeve that can be purchased and placed over the chip in a credit card. Or it could be covered with a piece of aluminum foil to help block the transfer of information. If they own more than one credit card, carry the one that doesn't have an RFI chip when they go shopping.


Marcus : Do those online coupon sites really work? Not Groupon but the the ones for discounts if you enter a special code on a seller's website. I'm suspicious because the "coupons" are often non existent and I wonder if they just want me to visit their website so they can track me.

Wil Slaughter : This is a relatively new way of shopping and there are many coupon sites. As with any type of shopping, it's important to read the fine print on the site.  So far the police or consumer affairs have not had any major issues with this new shopping experience.


Wil Slaughter : Thanks for joining us today.  We hope you have found some information to make shopping safer.  Additional information on Black Friday shopping  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education/black-friday.htm , Cyber Monday http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education/cyber-monday.htm and for financial crimes reporting http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/financialcrimes/ 


Anonymous User : What if my identity is stolen and gifts are bought in my name? How do I go about getting my money back first, then my reputation second?

Clinton Beach : We just received one more question. First, report this incident to your local police department for an identity theft number. Then, contact the bank and provide them with this case number. Most likely the bank will reimburse you as long as you fill out an affidavit of fraud and provide them with the case number from the police department. This is extremely common, unfortunately. Monitor your credit report closely, especially at this busy time of year. Your reputation should remain intact; but please monitor your credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education.

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