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Smart & Safe Holiday Giving

Many North Carolina consumers have already started shopping for the holidays, and Attorney General Cooper today encouraged them to take steps to avoid common problems such as items that cant be returned, gift cards that cant be used and orders that never arrive.

For many of us, giving gifts is an important part of holiday celebrations, Cooper said. Make your holidays even more enjoyable by avoiding potential headaches, shopping smart and spending wisely.
  • Buy from stores you know improves the odds that youll be able to return or exchange a purchase. To check out a companys track record, call the Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or contact your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Shop safely online, too. Stick to well-established companies with secure web sites (look for a lock icon on the site and a web address that starts with https). Get the companys street address and telephone number and verify them before you place an order.
  • Learn about refund and return policies. Stores arent required by law to accept returned merchandise, so ask about refunds and return policies before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a refund, and some charge a restocking fee. Hang on to receipts, including printed receipts for online purchase and invoices from mail order gifts. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay shipping costs to return it.
  • Consider paying by credit card to improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business. If you order a gift that never arrives, you may be able to dispute the charge. Also, if your credit card is lost or stolen, federal law limits your liability to $50.
  • Giving gift cards or certificates? If the store or restaurant closes before the gift card can be used, you may be able to contest the charge through your credit card company. Under North Carolina law, retailers cant charge a maintenance fee on their gift cards within the first year and must clearly disclose any fees theyll deduct after that.
  • Give wisely. Planning to make a donation during the holidays? Learn where your money will go and how it will be used. Research charities with the BBBs Wise Giving Alliance and the NC Secretary of States Office. Give to causes that you choose rather than being swayed by high-pressure telemarketers or text messages and emails that may be scams. Check out more tips on giving to charity.
  • Criminals and scammers dont take a holiday. Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your wallet and access to your credit or debit cards when in public. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. And never share personal information with telemarketers who call you or respond to emails or text messages that ask you for personal information.

To check out a company with the Attorney Generals Office or file a consumer complaint, call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or visit To check out a companys record or file a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau, visit


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