Philly DA warns of holiday shopping scams

PHILADELPHIA - November 26, 2010

That's why Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is warning shoppers to be on the lookout.

"There is always somebody looking to separate you from your money," said District Attorney Seth Williams said during a news conference on Friday. "The last thing that anyone needs during these tough economic times is to lose their hard earned money because of a criminal."

This year, there are new types of scams you should be on the lookout for:

Online Membership Programs: Williams says Scammers will use "rewards or discounts" pop-up windows under the guise of mainstream companies to get people to sign up with the scammer's company and unknowingly give personal or financial information. He says you should be skeptical of "rewards or discounts" pop-ups. If you do click on one, make sure to read the fine print and subsequently check your credit card statement regularly.

Smishing: Authorities say these are automated text messages that ask for personal information. Williams suggested checking the call-back number on Google to make sure it is legitimate.

Small and Frequent Charges: In these cases, scammers will "test" victims by making small charges on their credit card to see if they are caught. If they go undetected, the scammer will later make larger and larger charges. To be safe, be sure to review your bank statement monthly, and call the company if you don't recognize any charges.

Skimmers: Scammers will capture keypad and card information when consumers input their PIN number at ATMs, gas stations, restaurants, etc. They can then use this to extract money from victims' accounts. To avoid becoming av ictim, always select the "credit" option at retailers, gas stations, and restaurants, even if you are using a debit card. By selecting "credit," you do not have to input your PIN and you are less liable for fraud. With ATMs, try to use those at your bank whenever possible.

Counterfeit Products: Scammers will sell counterfeit electronics with faulty wiring and fuses or dangerous chemicals. To be safe, verify that the product is real by checking the package for any misspellings or otherwise abnormal qualities, and check that the label is genuine at

For more information about shopping scams, visit the website of the Philadelphia District Attorney.

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