Attorney General warns of holiday scammers

(AP File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This week is the final holiday shopping rush, and that means it is also a prime time for scammers.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says shoppers need to be on high alert as they make their purchases this season.

“The holidays are a great time to celebrate and give thanks with friends, family, and neighbors, but it’s also a time when criminals and scammers try to take advantage of Virginians’ generosity and all that we have going on in our lives this time of the year,” he says.

Herring urges online shoppers to make sure retailers have a registered physical address and phone number and to pay by credit card since those transactions are protected by the federal Fair Credit Billing Act.

In an interview with 8News Anchor Amy Lacey, Herring says vendors who press shoppers to make a hasty purchase should also raise a red flag about the legitimacy of the deal.

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Herring warns. “If you ever have any questions about it, follow the 24-hour rule. If it’s a legitimate service or charity, 24 hours, they’re willing to wait for that.”

Also, beware of gift cards sold secondhand or online; it is safer to buy them from reputable sources or directly from the store.

Herring cautions charitable donors about supporting a cause based on emails they receive.

“Be wary of pushing on links and emails that you might not know are coming from a trusted source,” Herring advises. “If you click on emails, make sure they’re from a trusted source.

Herring says Virginians should always verify that the charity is registered with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs, and residents should never donate cash or use a wire transfer.

Anyone who suspects he or she has been scammed can call the Virginia Consumer Complaint Hotline at (800) 552-9963, email consumer@oag.state.va.us or fill out this form.