With only a week left to complete your holiday shopping, it’s important to stay alert for scams, misleading advertising or unfair business practices whether you’re make online or in-store purchases.

Consider the following advice, compiled from various consumer affairs resources.

When You’re Out Shopping:

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  • Make sure the scanned prices for your purchases are correct. Overcharges cost time and money, especially when they are not noticed right away.
  • If you’re buying an advertised sale item, bring the advertisement or flier with you to the store. If a store advertises an item at a certain price and then refuses to honor the price, it is considered deceptive advertising and that is illegal in New Jersey.
  • Be sure to read the fine print in all advertisements, which may limit quantities or availability of sale items.
  • Look for the actual prices of items you want to buy either on the merchandise or on the display. New Jersey law requires that merchants must clearly mark the price of items either on the items themselves or the display where the items are located.
  • In New Jersey, gift cards or certificates must be valid for 24 months after purchase. After that period, merchants are allowed to charge a dormancy fee of up to $2 a month, as long as that fee is disclosed on the card or certificate. The merchant also must include a telephone number for consumer inquiries into the expiration date and dormancy fee on the card.
  • Save your receipts and store tags. Some stores have fairly strict rules about returns.

When You’re Shopping Online:

  • If you use your smartphone or computer to shop for deals, be wary of unexpected emails, texts or notifications that may flood your device. Fraudulent websites will advertise to consumers claiming bargains on a variety of brand names.
  • Be aware that shopping apps collect personal data. Looks for apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure.
  • Make sure websites are secure or use encryption before entering personal and credit card information. Look for “https” in the website address.
  • Have packages delivered to a secure location or make sure someone is home. If no one is home, have the package delivered to work or see if a neighbor can watch out for it.
  • Keep copies of order numbers, email correspondence with the seller, refund policies, shipping costs, warranties. Find out whether you have to pay for shipping and handling to return merchandise.

In addition, consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.

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