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Discussion Title 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 on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. about online shopping safety, gift cards and how to separate the real door busters from ho-hum deals.


Clinton Beach : Good morning and thank you for joining us. I am Clinton Beach, detective of financial crimes for the Police Department, and I am here with Vee Johnson, community outreach liaison with the Consumer Affairs branch. We are looking forward to your questions about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.


Verda Johnson : Let's get the discussion started. It's that time of year for holiday shopping.  To get the most out of your holiday dollars$$$, you need a plan.  Make a list of everything you need for the holidays, such as gifts, decorations, travel, entertainment and more.  Based on your list, set a spending plan to keep your spending focused and on track.  Shop around for deals online, in the mall and by mail.  Compare prices, use coupons, and look for price-matching offers.  Before buying, read and understand refund and return policies and warranties, and be sure to read the fine print. Give gift receipts so everyone will have happy returns. 


Clinton Beach : From the police side, we investigate a lot of credit card cases at gyms during this time of year, and we have found that many continue to leave their keys, purses and wallets exposed or out in the open. I would advise to take the extra step and secure these items in a locker or other safe area.

Unfortunately, many would-be criminals seek out opportunities where valuables are left in an easy-to-reach area, or inside a vehicle in plain view. When possible, please take extra steps to secure all possessions and know where your keys, purses and wallets are at all times while out and about during the holiday season, and at all times throughout the year.


Katherine : Will the police have extra patrols around the shopping centers this year? If so, will they be in uniform or plain clothes?

Clinton Beach : Yes, we will have a specialized unit at the local malls to help enforce safety. There will be both plain-clothes and uniformed officers on duty for the holiday season. However, please remember that your best defense is to take personal precautions while you shop and be aware of your surroundings at all times.


Anonymous User : Have people been robbed while doing their holiday shopping already this year? How early should I be worried when I go to the mall?

Clinton Beach : We do not have specific information to answer your question, however the busier the venue, the higher the chance of theft and other criminal activity. My advice would be to take precautions throughout the year, regardless of the shopping volume. To answer your question, for many the holiday shopping season has already begun, so please take care while shopping both in stores and online.


Dora : Should I be worried about my ATM card being skimmed?

Clinton Beach : It is always a good idea to monitor your accounts on a daily basis. Many financial institutions have made it easy to check your account status online or via the phone, so you will know what is happening at all times. Do be careful to keep your card secure, and to be selective about when you use it. Never share your PIN number or other personal information connected to your account.


Verda Johnson : Gift cards are still one of the most requested gifts during the holidays.  When giving gift cards, buy from merchants you know and trust. Consider the financial condition of the business and find out if a merchant has filed or may file for bankruptcy. Before you buy the card, inspect it to make sure it hasn't been tampered with and that the codes on the back haven't been scratched off.  If you have a concern, report the problem to the store selling the card. If you receive a gift card, ask the purchaser for the receipt along with the terms and conditions for use of the card. Be aware of the expiration date and understand the fees so you get the full value out of the card.  Treat the card like cash. Each year, thousands of gift cards go unused so use your card as soon as you can.  If you have a problem with a retail gift card, try to resolve it directly with the retailer.  If this is not successful, file a complaint for voluntary mediation with Consumer Affairs at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer or call 703-222-8435.  If it is a bank gift card, file with the Office of the Controller of the Currency at www.helpwithmybank.gov or 800-613-6743.


Clinton Beach : Thank you for joining us today and we wish you a safe and happy holiday shopping season. To learn more about being a safe shopper, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer/education.

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