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Scam prevention tips offered as holidays approach

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ALBANY—The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection announces tips to help New Yorkers navigate the holiday shopping season.

This week’s tips are meant to empower New Yorkers with actionable fraud prevention tips, so they have greater awareness and control when shopping online this holiday season.

“During the busy holiday season, shopping online can be a convenient way to buy the perfect gift but unfortunately it’s also a way for holiday scammers to take advantage of consumers by stealing their financial or personal information. Don’t let cybercriminals steal your holiday spirit by scamming you out of your hard-earned money. Protect yourself by following our tips from the Division of Consumer Protection,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a press release.

Tips to help avoid online shopping scams:

Beware of fake websites: Unfortunately, fraudsters often imitate legitimate brands by creating fake shopping websites. Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and from whom you’re buying it. There are a few ways to tell if it’s an imposter website. Here are a few to know:

*Domain name: If the domain name doesn’t match the official company name or website, it could be a scam site

*Grammatical errors: legitimate organizations spend resources to make sure their sites are error-free. If you notice obvious spelling mistakes or errors, that is a red flag

*Check the contact page and website’s privacy policy. The absence of a legitimate (or any) address, working phone number and privacy policy should be a cause for concern that you are viewing a scam site

*Be careful when shopping on social media: scammers are using real store names and logos to advertise fake clearance sales on social media feeds. Pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews. The best way to detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. Don’t purchase a product directly from the social media site

*Open a new browser and make your purchase through the retailer’s website. Avoid placing orders on these copycat sites for products that will never arrive

*Beware of third-party seller scams: Use caution on trusted sites that host items from third-party sellers. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments, and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor

*Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers

*Learn how to spot a fake review: Watch out for fake reviews online. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specific details. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective. Also look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person

*Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want

*Beware of nonexistent return policies. If you notice that the return or refund policy of an online retailer is vague, missing or exceedingly limited, shop elsewhere. If you can’t return the item you’re buying for a full refund if you’re not satisfied, consider skipping it.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding state holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time atwww.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.

Sheriff’s Office raises $3,500+ during No Shave November
Members of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office participated in a No Shave November Campaign with donations going to the Columbia County Joseph P. Dwyer Foundation, Columbia County Community Cancer Fund and Community Hospice. Members also donated food pantry items to the Joseph P. Dwyer Food Pantry in honor of Veterans Day. Command Sgt. Major Gary Flaherty, director of the Columbia County Veterans Bureau and the Columbia County Joseph P. Dwyer Foundation and Claire Parde, director of the Healthcare Consortium, who oversees the Columbia County Community Cancer Fund accepted the donations. Pictured (l-r) are: Captain Kevin Skype, Sheriff Donald Krapf, Director of the Columbia County Veterans Bureau Command Sgt. Major Gary Flaherty, 1st Sgt Ian Boehme and Investigator Peter Merante. Photo contributed

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