Orange County warns about online and social media holiday scams

Cyber criminals often prey on consumers who don’t keep a close eye on their transactions


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— Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler and Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Chuck Mitchell are urging residents to remain alert for internet and social media-based shopping scams as the holiday season kicks into full gear.

“It’s troubling to know that these types of scams often spike during the holiday season,” Neuhaus said. “While shopping online offers convenience and most companies are reputable, you could still become a victim. I want residents to be aware that we are here to help. If you have a question, concern or complaint, I urge you to contact our Consumer Affairs department, the District Attorney’s Office or local law enforcement.”

Online shopping tipsMitchell offered the following tips for residents who shop online during the holiday season:

• Avoid companies with poor customer service.

There are two easy ways to investigate this and consumers should try both. They can review the companies Better Business Bureau rating and history (bbb.org) and conduct a web search of the company or product name using words such as “complain” or “return.”

• Read the return policy carefully before buying.

Look out for return policies that are vague or ambiguous; policies that require consumers to get “permission” to return items; and policies that require returns to be sent overseas at the customer’s expense.

• Don’t mistake a social media “like” for a review of the company’s performance.

Some companies pay individuals to promote their products, and some people who share or like product photos may not have made purchases.

• Use credit cards instead of debit cards when shopping at sites new to you.

Credit cards provide fraud protections that debit cards do not.

Using your debit card can give criminals access to your entire bank account.

“Cyber criminals prey on shoppers who aren’t keeping a close eye on their transactions,” Hoovler said. “Consumers should shop directly on business websites, not through links for deals or offers. If you go to a specific website, you should make sure you are directed there. You should consistently confirm that the website(s) you are using are secure.”

Packages on your doorstepOnce your online transaction is made safely and securely, Hoovler said that residents should remain on alert. Packages are often stolen from doorsteps during the holiday season.

“Online shopping has increased and unfortunately so has the theft of packages,” Hoovler said. “We have seen an uptick of packages being stolen the past few weeks. Anyone who is a victim of this crime should call 911 or their local law enforcement agency to make a report.”

EssentialsConsumers who have been victims of any scam should immediately report it to local law enforcement.

For more information, contact Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Chuck Mitchell at 845-360-6703 or cmitchell@orangecountygov.com.



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