Holiday shopping (fraud) tips, resources

Santa says, check those store receipts for accuracy/Courtesy

(Taxpayer-funded San Diego County News Center provides the following tips and resources concerning keeping the holidays jolly by avoiding fraud and other miscreant behavior.)

Santa’s checking receipts, he’s checking them twice — you should, too

By Gig Conaughton

Cash registers ring, are you listening? Black Friday’s back, sales are glistening! Make sure your shopping is sweet, double check your receipts.

So you’re not accidentally overcharged by faulty cash register price scanners.

OK, so the last part didn’t rhyme, but you get the idea. Overcharging does happen, and the County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures (AWM) wants to make sure that if you’re shopping, you’re checking your receipts.

Every year, AWM inspects more than 1,500 local businesses, checking price-scanning devices, scales that charge items by weight and other equipment that set prices, to make sure they are charging customers accurately. But even the best businesses have occasional overcharges. Between January and October, almost one out of every 10 stores inspected, 9.54 percent, had overcharge errors, and the average overcharge was $1.85. An extra couple of bucks may not sound alarming, but in the holiday shopping season, even tiny overcharges can add up to make big dents in your wallet or pocketbook.

So check all your receipts and have a merry holiday season. Here are some other tips to help you shop smartly and safely:

Protect Against Overcharging:

  • Always verify receipts and immediately notify store management of any price discrepancies.
  • Stores are required to display the price of an item, as you are buying it, before the transaction is complete. Watch the display screen as your items are scanned.
  • Take sales advertisements with you when shopping to verify prices.
  • Know that stores cannot legally charge more than their lowest advertised, posted or quoted price.

Shop Smart:

  • Plan ahead. Start watching for store sale fliers, flea markets, garage sales, clearance sales, etc.
  • Make a list of what you need.
  • Comparison shop with at least five different sources for the best values.
  • Don’t buy everything at once. Establish a spending plan and timetable to buy what you need over several weeks or months to take full advantage of future sales and true bargains.
  • Download and use the County’s Tell Us Now app to contact Agriculture, Weights and Measures, or call AWM at 1-888-TRUE SCAN (1-888-878-3722) or email to to report overcharges you can’t resolve with a store.


Don’t get cheated or scammed while shopping online

By Yvette Urrea Moe

Cyber Monday kicks off the online holiday shopping season for some. Be careful that the sites you shop on are real and secure.

Safety first when it comes to online holiday shopping/Courtesy

Fraud investigators with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department recommend the following:

  • Use one credit card for all online purchases to avoid exposing other cards.
  • Do NOT click on links from unsolicited emails. Go to the website instead.
  • Make sure the website is legitimate and secure. Check for the lock icon in the address bar, and make sure the address begins with https.
  • Make sure the browser, anti-virus and malware protection software is updated on the computer you are using.
  • Avoid using a public computer. Shop at home on a secured network.
  • Avoid using open Wi-Fi for financial transactions. Password protect your Wi-Fi and use a Firewall.
  • Create a unique password for every online account. Use at least eight letters and a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Update your passwords frequently.
  • Do not trust sellers who ask you to pay with a wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
  • Lock your smartphones and tablets with a password or code feature to prevent thieves from stealing and using them to make purchases.
  • Only download apps from a trusted app store or online platform such as Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.
  • Use a security app to protect your smartphone or tablet device against malicious apps and malware.
  • Monitor your bank statements for unauthorized transactions.


Pet safety tips as you deck the halls

By Tracy DeFore

Time to deck the halls for the holidays but remember to keep pet safety in mind, so the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t go to the dogs, or rather the vet.

Keep pets safe during the holidays/Courtesy

Holiday decorations can pose safety hazards for your cat or dog so County Animal Services has nine tips on how to protect your pets so you can keep the happy in your holidays.

  • Keep pets away from mistletoe, holly or poinsettias. They are toxic to animals.
  • Chocolate can be toxic, so keep stockings out of reach and any chocolate cookies you might leave out for Santa.
  • Anchor your Christmas tree so pets can’t tip it over. If you’ve used anything but tap water for the base of the tree, make sure they can’t drink it.
  • Cats love to play with tinsel and curling ribbon but then they’ll try to eat it. Prevent a trip to the vet and keep both tinsel and curling ribbon away from cats or don’t use it at all.
  • Hide electrical cords from your pets and make sure they can’t play with or knock over any candles.
  • Set aside a quiet room. Many dogs and cats get overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. A quiet room allows them to escape and sleep undisturbed.
  • Ringing in the New Year? Your dog needs a quiet, secure place on New Year’s Eve. The loud booms from fireworks can scare dogs. Some will do anything to escape the noise; they’ll run for miles and become lost. Create a safe place where they can hide out from the explosive sounds of the New Year and make sure your dog is wearing identification, just in case.
  • Microchip both dogs and cats. They might slip out the door unnoticed while you’re busy greeting holiday visitors. If someone finds your lost pet or pets, a vet’s office or shelter can scan for a microchip and you’ll quickly be reunited. Animal Services offers microchippingTuesday through Sunday. The fee is $10 and includes national registration.
  • Use your computer or smartphone and sign up for Finding Rover. This free service uses facial recognition to identify dogs and cats. If your pet gets lost, Finding Rover has the photo on file for anyone who may find him.

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