District Attorney warns of holiday shopping scams

The traditional holiday shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday, but it is also a time for online scams targeting consumers.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said shoppers should be careful when shopping inside stores and eliminate opportunities for criminals.

“There is always somebody looking to separate you from your money,” Williams said at a press conference. “The best course of action is prevention. Many thieves choose their victims because the thieves see an opportunity. If you take away the opportunity, chances are you won’t become a victim.”

Williams also warned of a few new scams that police and his office will be monitoring this year, including third-party sellers of used gift cards, one-day only bargain e-mails, and fake auctions. He suggested that consumers Google the names of unknown sellers and avoid giving out their credit card information if they have any doubt.

Some other things to watch out for:

• Steeply discounted electronics stores: No online store is going to sell an iPad for $10. You won’t find new digital cameras for $5. There are dozens of “fake” online electronics stores that don’t even have an inventory, and they won’t ship you anything you order. They’re only out to get your credit card number.

• Parking lot bait and switch: Don’t buy electronics from strangers that approach you in a parking lot. It’s always a scam. Always. Often someone will approach you with some wild story about how they need to sell “this $1,000 laptop” or “these $1,000 speakers” fast. The price is usually only $100 to $200, but when you’re back home with the box you’ll find they switched it on you and there’s nothing inside. Some crooks are so sophisticated, they’ve figured out how to re-wrap packages in plastic. So what looks like an unopened iPad is actually a box with some notepads inside to weight it down.

Williams also said shoppers monitor their banks accounts closely for any suspicious activity and be careful of using their debit cards in places like restaurants or online because it’s linked to a bank account.

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