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Save Money - Stay Informed While Shopping This Holiday Season

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Media contacts:  
Jeane’ Holley:  (216) 698-2544 or jholley@cuyahogacounty.us

Consumer Affairs shares Holiday Tips for the entire family

CLEVELAND – Consumers have so many more options when it comes to shopping ‐ you can go in person to the store, download an app to your tablet or smartphone, order over the telephone or by mail, and shop online at various websites. It is imperative that consumers are informed on how to save money, shop safely, and protect their identity from thieves during the holiday season.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs ‐ a department formed earlier this year as an initiative of Councilman Dan Brady and County Executive Ed FitzGerald ‐ put together a few tips to help avoid problems that can occur during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Shopping Tips for the Holidays:

  • Make a shopping list, budget, and stick to it. Watch for sale flyers and coupons from stores or search the Internet and Social Media sites to see “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” deals. Then again, stores are opening sooner as they did last year on Thanksgiving so start preparing now. Do not forget to look into savings with reward points you may have earned with credit cards or look into lay‐a‐way plans.

  • Know refund and return policies prior to your purchase. Verify if the refund issued is by in‐store credit, cash, or exchange. Ask about restocking fees, especially for electronic items. Ask for “gift receipts” to help if wrong sizes or colors have been purchased. Save shopping receipts for 90 days in case you run into problems, this will allow for a more hassle‐free return.

  • Buy gift cards from trusted sources to avoid counterfeits. Not all gift cards are the same, read the terms and conditions on bank or prepaid cards for expiration dates, reload, or administrative fees that apply to the card before you purchase. Remember, the terms and conditions are often printed on paper not on the card itself.

  • Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transaction or send to your email account. Pay by a credit card which gives you protections under federal law to dispute charges within 60 days of receiving a bill.

  • Always buy age appropriate and “safer” toys. With millions of toys recalled yearly, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://www.recalls.gov to learn more.

  • Check your accounts daily for any activity you did not initiate and read all monthly account statements for errors.

  • Shop with friends or relatives if possible; there is safety in numbers. Be alert, walk with your head up, shoulders back and scan your surroundings. Before you leave the cash register put your money and credit cards back into your wallet or purse. Women need to zip or close their purses. Carry only a few shopping bags. Return to your vehicle to unload purchases in the trunk and consider moving your car to another parking space if you plan to do additional shopping.

  • Think outside the gift box so you are not paying for purchases in 2014. Have family gift exchanges where you purchase only one gift or make and exchange homemade items or be creative by giving coupons such as “shovel driveway”, “cook dinner for family”, “take the dog for a walk” and so on. Whatever you do, have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

  • If you experience any pricing errors, report it to the cashier and to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. According to laws, the price posted is the correct price, regardless of the expiration of the sale period, and any expiration date marked on the shelf tag or sign. Most retailers have a policy and procedure to correct pricing errors immediately.

Tips on Avoiding Online Scams:

  • Emails will get clogged with sales and offers, both legitimate and fraudulent solicitations so use extreme caution when opening or responding to them. Many bogus shopping or e‐cards begin with general greetings such as “Dear Customer,” “Congratulations,” “Secret Admirer,” or “Friend,” to entice you to open them and click on link to view the greeting but instead send you spyware or viruses.

  • Make sure to password protect devices to prevent identity theft or unwanted purchases. Do not leave any devices laying on tables at coffee shops or restaurants unattended, it is like leaving a credit card on the table. Log out of banking and social apps when done, clear your browser history, update operating software, and never share data over public Wi‐Fi networks.

  • Buy gift cards from trusted sources to avoid counterfeits. Con artists will scratch off the area on the back of the card to reveal the code or peek down the sleeve of the card to read and record the number then go online and drain the card of all its value. Check the back of card to ensure no tampering. If you decided to sell your gift card online, use caution and avoid three way calls to the automatic system as the bogus buyer will record the call and then access card value after retracing numbers typed in.

  • The holiday season brings out a lot of charitable giving which is good because many charitable organizations depend on these gifts to keep operating and helping those in need. Use care, however, when receiving solicitations as fake charities will have similar sounding names. Before donating check the charity out with Charity Navigator at http://www.charitynavigator.org/ or the Ohio Attorney General at https://charitable.ohioago.gov/Charity-Registration
In addition, the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs has launched a website for residents to learn about their rights as consumers. The website promotes free resources to help consumers steer clear of frauds and scams, understand credit, and file complaints online. The website also features consumer protection videos. Please visit the website at: http://fiscalofficer.cuyahogacounty.us/en‐US/ConsumerAffairs.aspx