Consumer Alert: Shop Smart This Season

Attorney General Steve Six reminds Kansans to be smart consumers this holiday season. Six and his Consumer Protection Division launched a public education campaign to increase consumer awareness as the holiday shopping season begins.

“This Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, it’s also prime time for consumers to get scammed,” Six said. “So many people are shopping—both at retail locations and online—it’s easier to get taken advantage of.”

To help avoid becoming a target and a victim, be aware of your surroundings. "Anytime you have a lot of people coming together in a busy, distracted environment, it's a perfect opportunity for someone to steal your cell phone, to steal your purse, to steal your wallet, to steal any of the items you have with you," said Angela Wilson, Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Protection. "It's important to make sure you keep track of where things are... Remember that not everyone out there is out to have a good time. Some of the people who are out there are out there to steal your stuff."

There are many reasons consumer complaints increase between Thanksgiving and Christmas:

The sheer volume of purchases.
Consumers are in a hurry.
Increased online shopping.
Consumers looking for the best ‘deal.’
Failure to read the small print on warranties, refund policies and gift cards
Numerous gift returns and exchanges.

“Throughout the holidays, my Consumer Protection Division will be working diligently to help Kansans be smart consumers,” Six said. “We plan to spread information on a variety of consumer topics to make sure Kansans have happy holidays this year.”

Six went on to say that the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office typically sees a lot of complaints involving refund problems, rebates, gift cards, charities and secret shopper scams.

“I encourage consumers to visit our Web site at for more information on shopping smart this holiday season,” Six said.

Six will engage in a consumer education strategy for the next month. He will promote consumer tips, charitable giving tips and work with the media to provide consumer information throughout the holiday season.

“The more information we provide to Kansans, the fewer consumers will fall victim to unscrupulous businesses or scam artists this holiday season,” Six said.

From the Topeka Police Department:
The Topeka Police Department wants you to have a safe and crime free holiday season but YOU must take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of you being a victim of a crime this holiday season.

Criminals have families too and they feel the same need to provide for them as you do. The problem is that criminals don’t buy their gifts, they steal yours. As soon as you begin your holiday shopping so do the criminals. You can reduce crime by following some very simple steps.

"Lots of times the bad guys will be hanging out at the mall, hanging out at Wal-Mart, Target watching individuals make purchases," said Sgt. Lance Feyh. He said when shoppers put purchases in their vehicles, those criminals will watch to see if the shoppers go back into the store, then strike.

Feyh also advises shoppers carry just one debit or credit card for all their purchases so that the amount they're carrying is minimal, and it's easier to stop offenders or recover losses from a stolen card. "We don't want you carrying large sums of cash around," said Feyh. "One of the last things you want is to have the money you worked hard for to get stolen from you or have you be the victim of a robbery because you were flashing a large amount of cash."

Take the following holiday safety quiz to see the areas where you can improve. Answer either Yes, No or Not Applicable.

1. Do you take a friend or family member with you when you go shopping?

2. Do you pay for purchases with a check or credit/debit card and avoid carrying large sums of cash?

3. Do you place packages in the trunk of your car or out-of-sight from potential thieves?

4. Do you lock the doors and windows of your house, even if you are leaving for just a few minutes?

5. Do you get your keys out before you approach your parked vehicle?

6. Do you have a record of all your credit card numbers in a secure place?

7. Have you instructed your child to contact a store clerk for help if you become separated?

8. Do you check the identification of all persons delivering packages to your home?

9. Do you keep gift-wrapped packages out of sight of windows and doors of your home?

10. When you carry cash while shopping, do you carry it in your front pocket?

11. If you use an ATM, do you always use one in a secure location such as inside a mall or store?

12. Do you always park in a well-lighted area?

13. Do you avoid wearing expensive jewelry or watches while shopping?

14. Do you avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells or cars with tinted windows?

15. Do you make sure that you take your purchase or ATM receipts with you, rather than putting them into the trash?

16. When you use an ATM, do you shield your PIN number from the view of others?

17. When you leave the house, do you leave a radio or television on so that the house seems occupied?

‘No’ answers are areas for improvement while ‘Yes’ answers are areas you are doing what is necessary to help reduce the risk of crime.

Tips on Gift Cards from the Better Business Bureau
Gift cards around the holidays, you need to be careful that the cards will be honored after the holidays. Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as 'Bankruptcy Planning.'

Below is a partial list of stores that you need to be cautious about.

Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)

Ann Taylor 117 stores nationwide closing

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and

Catherine's to close 150 stores nationwide

Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January

Cache will close all stores

Talbots closing down specialty stores

J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)

Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)

GAP closing 85 stores

Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January

Wickes Furniture closing down

Levitz closing down remaining stores

Bombay closing remaining stores

Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January

Whitehall closing all stores

Piercing Pagoda closing all stores

Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.

Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ ( New Brunswick )

Macys to close 9 stores after January

Linens and Things closing all stores

Movie Galley Closing all stores

Pep Boys Closing 33 stores

Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores

JC Penney closing a number of stores after January

Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.

Wilson Leather closing down all stores

Sharper Image closing down all stores

K B Toys closing 356 stores

Loews to close down some stores

Dillard's to close some stores