"This is an exciting and joyful time of year," said Attorney General DeWine in a statement. "But keeping an eye out for fraudsters and gimmicks, and clearly understanding the terms of a purchase will go a long way toward making sure the holidays are safe and hassle free."
Whether it's shopping in person or online, on "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday," Attorney General DeWine urged Ohioans to remember the following tips:
• If you receive gift cards, use them in a timely fashion. Most are required to last five years, but fees may come into play and lower the value of the gift card. If the business closes its doors, the value of its gift cards may be lost.
• Making a major purchase? Check return policies, restocking fees, and warranty agreements. Retain all records associated with the purchase.
• When shopping, carry only the credit cards and/or cash needed on that trip. Keep a copy of accounts and account numbers in a secure place so financial institutions can be contacted quickly in the event cards are lost or stolen.
• If purchasing online, check that the website is legitimate and secure. Look for an "s" in the first letters of a site's web address: https. And make sure your computer antivirus and other security software is up to date.
• Do not pay attention to texts you might receive on your cell phone that claim you have won a major prize or gift card, even if they appear to be from an established company. Call the company directly if you have questions.
• Check that your financial statements match with purchases you've made. If discrepancies are found, contact the financial institution immediately.
• Know all the terms of a layaway plan. If you fall behind in payments, you could lose the item and the money you've put into it.
• In Ohio, you generally have three business days to cancel certain kinds of prepaid entertainment contracts, including gym memberships, dance studios, and dating agencies.
"By following these guidelines, and remembering that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is, consumers can go a long way toward keeping the holidays happy," said Attorney General DeWine.
Consumers who want to learn more about their rights or believe that they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.