ShopSmart Exposes the Sneakiest New Shopping Scams

Oct 11, 2010, 18:00 ET from ShopSmart Magazine

Easy Ways to Avoid the Biggest Rip-Offs Online and in Stores

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- These days, with Internet fraud on the rise and sophisticated "skimming" scams popping up at the ATM, it's getting tougher to avoid being taken for a ride. So how can consumers stay ahead of criminals who are constantly thinking of new ways to swindle them? A new feature in the November 2010 issue ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, exposes the newest scams so that you can protect yourself right now.

"At ShopSmart, our main job is to help consumers shop with confidence by providing information they need to get the best deals, but just as important as knowing how to sniff out great buys is understanding what it takes to avoid rip-offs," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "So ShopSmart put together a guide about the latest, sneakiest scams, and simple tips that can help consumers protect themselves."

ShopSmart's "Shopping Scams" feature highlights the newest scams and how to avoid them, the top sites to visit to help you stay safe online, and how to hang onto your handbag during the holiday shopping season when pickpockets are out in full force. Below is a sampling of some of ShopSmart's advice.

How You Can Protect Yourself From the Latest Scams


  • HOW IT WORKS: "Phishing" is when you get an e-mail from a supposedly trustworthy source, such as your bank or PayPal, claiming a problem with your account and asking for your user name and password. When you respond, your information is stolen and your account is siphoned. "Smishing" is the latest twist on—instead of getting an e-mail, you get an SMS text message. You're told to call a toll-free number, which is answered by a bogus interactive voice response system that tries to fool you into providing your account number and password.
  • PREVENT IT!: If you get a text alert about an account, don't respond before you verify that it's legitimate. You can do a Google search on the number to see whether it matches your financial institution. Even better, call the customer-service number at your bank or other service provider to give any needed information to a representative.


  • HOW IT WORKS: Thieves get hold of your credit- or debit-card number and make very small charges of 20 cents to $10. The charges appear on your bill with an innocuous sounding corporate name, and a toll-free number may appear next to the charge. But when you call the number, it's either disconnected or you're instructed to leave a message and your call is never returned.
  • PREVENT IT!: Scrutinize every item on your bill every month, and question those you don't recognize. If you think a charge is fraudulent, notify your card company as soon as possible but no later than 60 days after the charge appears. Debit cards offer fewer protections: You must report the problem two days after you notice it. If you don't, you could be liable for the first $500 in fraudulent charges.

Counterfeit Electronics

  • HOW IT WORKS: Counterfeiting might seem like old news, but it's still going strong. Fake electronic goods could have substandard wiring, faulty fuses, flammable plastic casings, and harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury. All kinds of electronics have been illegally copied, including computers, phones, and handheld gaming devices.
  • PREVENT IT!: Look for a label stating that the product has been certified by CSA International or Underwriters Laboratory. Look at the product, too. Are there misspellings on the package? If the box is seethrough, does it contain all of the listed components, including batteries, cases, and power cords? Is the manufacturer's contact information, including address and phone number, clearly displayed? When in doubt, buy from well-known retailers that offer a full refund.

About ShopSmart magazine:

Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports' celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and "best of the best" lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

SOURCE ShopSmart Magazine