District Attorney George Gascón Releases Consumer Alert for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

November 26, 2013

Contact: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167 or (415) 740-5134
ADA Alex Bastian, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1931

San Francisco – District Attorney George Gascón released a consumer alert today to inform the public about safe shopping tips in preparation for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season.

“The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Whether you’re taking advantage of Black Friday sales or Cyber Monday discounts, don’t let scammers put a damper on the holidays.”

In an effort to help consumers avoid being a victim of holiday scams or theft, District Attorney George Gascón released the following tips:

1) Use a Credit Card
Credit cards have anti-fraud systems in place that protect you from unauthorized charges to your account. Credit card companies will routinely search for suspicious or fraudulent activity - this is especially helpful when shopping online. If your credit card lands in the wrong hands, your liability is limited under Federal law.
Debit card companies have increased their number of anti-fraud systems – check with your bank first to find out what protections they provide. (If given the option of your card being charged as a debit or a credit card, use the credit option as that will require your signature to verify your identity and minimize exposure of your PIN number.)

As an alternative, you can shop with a prepaid credit card which offers the same anti-fraud protections that come with regular credit cards.

2) Stick to Trusted Websites
When shopping online, stick to reputable websites that are secure. Look for companies with a high number of reviews with high ratings versus companies with only several reviews with a high rating. In addition, you can always check with the Better Business Bureau before you make a purchase.

A secure site will have a trusted and safe backend system. You will see an “https” in the URL once you checkout to purchase your items (Note: an online shopping site will have a “www” or “http” in the URL when you are browsing. Once you begin the checkout process, a secured site will take you to a secure server with “https” in URL).

3) Ensure Safe Delivery of Packages
With more people shopping online, it is common for would-be thieves to scope out unattended delivered packages in front of homes. Take precautions to ensure your package is safely delivered:

• Keep the tracking number and call or check online when your package will be delivered to ensure someone is present to receive it.
• Request a signature confirmation upon delivery if the option is available.
• If you know you won’t be home, have the package shipped to your place of employment or to a trusted neighbor or friend.
• You can also request that the package be held at the delivery company’s local delivery center or shipped to the retailer’s nearest store or drop box for a pick up.

4) Watch out for “Too Good to be True” Deals
There may be “too good to be true” deals on sites that you’ve never heard of. It’s safer to stay away – a lot of these sites pop up during the holidays to scam shoppers and then disappear after the season. If you see a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is.

This holiday season, you may get a lot of spam emails advertising an item that is dramatically reduced in price (i.e. iPads for $20). Be very careful with these emails and don’t click on any of these mysterious links and deals that show up in your inbox. These are most likely scammers phishing for your information in order to steal your identity or money.

5) Be Aware of Your Surroundings
When you’re out and about this holiday season, please be mindful of your surroundings. Keep your smartphone, wallet, or purse near you at all times. Do not walk and text and avoid talking on your cell phone while on transit. Make sure packages or personal belongings aren’t visible in your car to attract potential thieves.

If you have been a victim of a robbery or theft, immediately report the theft to the San Francisco Police Department (911 or for non-emergency situations, 415-553-0123.

If your phone is stolen, report the theft to your wireless carrier. Activate any security apps that you have installed. If you own an iPhone, activate “Find My iPhone” and put your phone in “Lost Mode.”

If consumers have any questions, please contact the District Attorney’s Consumer Hotline at (415) 551-9595 (hotline is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese)