Governor Cuomo Urges New Yorkers to Protect Personal Information During the Holiday Shopping Season

New Yorkers Encouraged to Exercise Caution While Shopping This Holiday Season
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Yorkers Encouraged to Exercise Caution While Shopping This Holiday Season 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged New Yorkers to take steps to protect their personal and financial information during the upcoming holiday shopping season. While popular shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for their bargains, criminals often use these days to scam unwary consumers. New Yorkers should stay vigilant when shopping this year and make sure they are aware of the steps they need to take to avoid becoming a victim of these crimes. 
"With more and more New Yorkers turning to online deals this holiday season, cyber criminals are looking for ways to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers using increasingly sophisticated tactics," Governor Cuomo said. "I encourage all New Yorkers to exercise diligence to protect themselves when shopping throughout the holidays and beyond."  
In 2016, there were 20,205 identity theft complaints reported by consumers in New York State. According to the FBI's 2016 Internet Crime Report, New Yorkers claimed a total loss of over $106 million resulting from cyber-related crimes. To maximize the chances of securing great online deals, while minimizing online shopping risks, consumers should engage in safe online behavior. This holiday season, and all year long, keep the following tips in mind when purchasing online. 

Black Friday shopping tips: 

  • Take Note of the Purchase and Use Rules Related to Gift Cards -- Consumers should carefully review the terms and conditions of use prior to purchasing a gift certificate or card, including the imposition of various fees, especially 'dormancy fees' for non-use. Consumers should also check the card's expiration date and determine if there are any restrictions on the use of the gift card. They should be aware of the replacement policy in case it is lost or stolen. 
  • Be Careful Purchasing Big Ticket Items -- When purchasing big ticket items, consumers should look for warranty coverage on the item; check out stock availability; and, evaluate financing options carefully. As consumers comb retail advertisements, they should take note of the fine print and the quantity of the product available at the advertised price, as well as whether rain checks are available. 
  • Understand Layaway Plans -- Layaway plans vary by store. Consumers should make sure they read all of the terms in the contract and have their questions answered regarding the payment schedules, refund policies and penalties for missing a payment before moving forward with a layaway. A copy of the contract and a record of payments should be retained by the purchaser. 
  • Read the Retailers Refund and Return Policy -- Consumers should review a store's refund policy before considering a purchase. If the store does not post a return policy, the law requires the store to accept a receipted return within 30 days of purchase. It is important to inquire whether the store imposes a re-stocking fee for returned merchandise and determine prior to purchase if the item can be returned for a refund or store credit only. 
  • Avoid Credit Card Debt -- If not careful, holiday purchases may cost consumers more than what is on their receipt. Consumers are urged to avoid credit card debt by tracking their spending, being cognizant of credit card limits, stick to a realistic budget and verify receipts and reconcile them against their statement. In addition, consumers should refrain from using their credit card for cash advances. The fees and interest on such transactions are higher than for credit card purchases.  Always review your monthly credit card statements carefully to ensure that you are being billed for the correct dollar amount. 

Cyber Monday Online Shopping Tips: 

Do your Research.  Shop with merchants and websites you know and trust.  Check out the seller's reputation at the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any reviews that mention potential scams or problems.  Also, review the privacy policy of the merchant website and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used, and if it will be shared or sold to others. 
  • Protect your Computer.  Keep your operating system and application software updated on all computers and mobile devices. Be sure to check that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled. 
  • Be Wary of Ads.  Avoid clicking on banner ads or pop-ups since they may link to a malicious website.  If you see an advertisement from a reputable brand for a deal or promotion that you are interested in, go to the company's website directly for more information.  
  • Shop Safely.  Before making an online purchase, make sure the website uses secure technology.  Verify the web address begins with "HTTPS".  The "s" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.   Do not use public computers or public Wi-Fi for your online shopping.  Public computers may be compromised with malicious software that steals your credit card information when placing an online order.  Traffic on public wireless networks may also be intercepted by criminals to steal credit card numbers and other personal information.  
  • Keep Documentation of your Order.  Save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the merchant.  Review your credit card statements to confirm that all charges are legitimate.  If you have unauthorized charges on your account, contact your credit card company immediately. 
New York State Chief Information Officer Robert H. Samson said, "The convenience and ease of online shopping continues to draw in more consumers each holiday season. As online shopping grows, so too does the risk of theft, fraud and abuse by cyber criminals. There are many steps New Yorkers can take to protect themselves this holiday season, and I encourage everyone to be cautious when shopping online to safeguard their financial information."   
New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "We all enjoy the thrill of nabbing a good online bargain, and Cyber Monday is an ideal time to find such deals.  Unfortunately, the holiday season is also the high season of identity thieves and scammers.  Thus, I encourage New Yorkers to protect their hard-earned dollars and follow the online shopping safety tips offered by the Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection." 
DHSES Commissioner Roger L. Parrino, Sr. said, "Those shopping online this holiday season should keep cybersecurity in mind in order to prevent identity theft and protect their finances. Take simple steps such as deleting suspicious looking emails, limiting how much personal information you share online, never clicking on links in email from unverified sources, and setting your system to automatically apply security updates. An ounce of caution can help protect you and your family from cyber criminals so you can safely enjoy the holidays." 
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "As online shopping continues to increase, consumers are becoming vulnerable targets for cyber criminals who seek to steal their financial information. Just as the public must be aware of their physical surroundings, we remind consumers to be aware of the online sites that they visit as well. Make sure the sites you shop are secure and that your computer and electronic devices are up-to-date with current security software. Don't share your passwords and make sure you close your browsers when you are done shopping. Lastly, check your financial statements regularly to make sure you are not a victim of fraud. Consumers need to be vigilant in protecting themselves when shopping online." 
New York State Chief Information Security Officer Deborah Snyder said, "The risk for fraudulent activity increases during the holiday season. It is important that consumers consider the risk, and remain vigilant in protecting their personal information while shopping online." 
If any New Yorker has a problem with a retailer subsequent to a purchase, they are encouraged to file a complaint with the New York State Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection.  The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time via the DCP website. The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own.  
For more helpful tips on staying safe online throughout the holiday season or for additional online safety resources, including real-time advisories, daily tips and many user-friendly awareness materials, click here.

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