Holiday Shoppers Beware

Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
December 12, 2008

The holiday season is once again upon us, which means it’s that time of year to spend with loved ones. It is also a time to go holiday shopping – often the most stressful part of the season.

In addition to the worries of acquiring the perfect gift for everyone on your list, there are also people out there who take advantage of this time of year to attempt to part you from your money through fraudulent scams or out-and-out theft, leaving you with an empty wallet.

It is impetrative that everyone is cautious of such con artists. With a few simple steps, it is easy to ensure that your hard-earned money does not end up in the wallet of these holiday “Grinches.”

  • Limit the amount of cash you keep on hand.
  • Keep wallets and money in your front pockets or an inside coat pocket to reduce the chance of being pickpocketed.
  • If you suspect your credit card was lost or stolen, call your issuer immediately.
  • Be cautious of “all sales are final” purchases.
  • If you are forced to shop at night, bring a friend or family member.
  • Always save your receipts.

A relatively new form of holiday shopping is making purchases online. It is a great way to avoid the massive holiday crowds at local malls and retail outlets. Unfortunately, it is another way you can be taken advantage of. With a few simple precautions you can avoid such a predicament.

Use your judgment to test the legitimacy of a website, as you would in an actual store. If you would have reservations about buying items out of the back of a truck in an alley, use the same logic when considering purchases from a website that you have never heard of or doesn’t look legitimate. You also should look for sites that have security certificates to verify online transactions are secure and protected from hackers. If there is not a security certificate, be wary of making purchases from that site.

It is undoubtedly difficult to be one hundred percent sure that a website is legitimate based solely on your gut feeling. That is why I encourage suspicious shoppers to take advantage of two online resources that verify the validity of a business and to file a formal complaint should you feel that you have fallen victim to an online scam: the Better Business Bureau ( and the New York State Consumer Protection Board (

As always, you can contact my office regarding this issue or any other state-related matter. My district office is located at 607 West Washington Street, Suite 2, in Geneva or call (315) 781-2030. I am always accessible by e-mail as well at My staff and I are here to serve you!