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In-Store, Online: Be Wary, Bergen Black Friday Shoppers

Acting NJ Attorney General John J. Hoffman
Acting NJ Attorney General John J. Hoffman Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Keep cool and don't get conned if you're dashing for deals and discounts on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the state Division of Consumer Affairs warn.

Hoffman urged shoppers to "follow some basic rules to ensure they’re getting a fair and honest deal” during what he called “the trifecta of holiday bargain shopping": Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement surrounding the start of the holiday shopping season,” added DCA Acting Director Steve Lee. “We’re reminding everyone to exercise a bit of common sense and caution to avoid getting cheated.”

Whether shopping online or at traditional brick and mortar stores, the following tips are useful:

· Bring ads for sales and “special deals” to the store. Refusing to honor advertising holiday sales or coupons is deceptive -- and illegal in New Jersey. Read sale advertisements carefully. Some may say “quantities are limited,” “no rain checks,” or “not available at all stores.”

· Call ahead to make sure the merchant has the item you want in stock. If you’re shopping for a popular or hard-to-find item, ask whether he or she is willing to hold the item until you get there. Watch the register when checking out to be sure the scanned price matches the advertised or posted price.

· Familiarize yourself with the store’s refund policies. Can you return items for its full price if you’re not satisfied? What are the conditions that apply? Must price tags remain on the product? Is there a restocking fee? With online purchases, do you have to pay shipping and handling fees?

· Keep your receipts. Many merchants who accept returns will require you to present the original receipt before providing you with a refund. For Internet purchases, print records of your online transactions. Print and save the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of every email you send or receive from the seller.

· Before you put items on layaway, ask about the store’s policy. Find out how much time you have to pay for the merchandise and possible charges for using the plan. Will there be a fee or a penalty for missed or late payments? If you decide you don’t want the merchandise after you’ve made some or all the payments, can you get a refund?

· When using credit cards in stores, take advantage of new anti-fraud chip technology whenever possible. The new cards have metal chips embedded on the front that better protect consumer’s identifying information from fraudsters. While not all retailers have upgraded their payment system to accept the new chip cards, those who do not have them installed for this holiday shopping season would be liable for any fraud that happens to you if you use the old swipe method.

· Exercise particular care when making a purchase online. Be certain the website is secure or uses encryption before entering personal and credit card information – look for “https” in the website address. Verify that the business operates from a real location and be wary of businesses that only list a Post Office Box as an address. Print out a transaction record for each purchase and keep it to resolve any issues.

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