Montana Department of Justice Offers Tips for Holiday Donors, Consumers
The Montana Department of Justice reminds the public to keep an eye out for online shopping scams, identity theft attempts, and false charity solicitations during the upcoming holiday season.
“When you’re asked to donate, give wisely,” Attorney General Fox said. “Ask questions and donate only when you’re satisfied that your money will be used in ways you consider appropriate. Be wary of callers who use high pressure tactics or those who promise you sweepstakes winnings in exchange for your contribution.”
The Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice recommends donors keep the following in mind:
• Ask how much of your contribution will go to the charity for its charitable purposes.
• Ask solicitors if they are paid fund-raisers. If the solicitors are paid, a portion of your contribution will pay their salary.
• Ask solicitors to provide you with written documentation indicating that your donation will be tax deductible.
• Don’t give your credit card number to a telephone solicitor or in response to any unsolicited phone call you receive. Pay by check instead. Your cancelled check will help you for tax record purposes. Use the full, official name of the charity on your check.
Attorney General Fox also reminded Montanans to use caution while shopping on-line for holiday gifts. “Never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase,” Attorney General Fox said. “Be careful of emails requesting information. Scammers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchases or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email.”
The Office of Consumer Protection offers on-line shoppers the following tips:
• Make sure that you’re up-to-date with the latest security software, web browsers, and operating system.
• Check out sellers and conduct independent research before you buy from a seller you’ve never done business with.
• Before you enter your personal and financial information to make an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure. This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with “http” or “https,” which indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
• Contact the merchant directly if you are alerted to a problem. Use contact information found on your account statement, not in an email.
Consumers should also be aware that under Montana law, gift cards and gift certificates from an individual merchant do not expire. “Whether you’re buying gift cards this holiday season, or receive them as gifts, remember that they don’t have to be used right away, even if there’s an expiration date printed on them,” Attorney General Fox said.
Gift cards that can be used with multiple sellers of goods or services, like those from a Chamber of Commerce or shopping center, or prepaid credit cards are not considered gift certificates in Montana. Additionally, under federal laws, cards usable with multiple merchants and prepaid credit cards are valid for at least five years from the date the card is purchased. Funds added to a prepaid card must also be good for five years.
Montana law also allows gift cards or gift certificates that have less than $5 remaining on them, but were originally valued at over $5, to be redeemed for cash.
For more tips, or to report a concern, contact the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at:
E-Mail: [email protected]
Phone Number: 1-800-481-6896 or 406-444-4500
PO Box 200151
Helena, MT 59620