With many consumers rushing to find last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts for the February 14th holiday, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs offers a few tips to help shoppers make smart purchases and avoid common fraud tactics such as the iTunes gift card scam.
The Division warns Tennesseans of the increasingly common gift card scam in which heartless con artists pose as an online love interest or family member in a bind. The consumer is persuaded to purchase an iTunes gift card and provide the scammer with the redeemable code on the back of the card. This scam is a choice method for criminals because it provides an easy and untraceable way for them to get your money.
To avoid falling victim to this scam, consumers should remember that iTunes gift cards are solely for the purchase of goods and services on the iTunes Store and App Store. Consumers who receive a request for payment using iTunes gift cards outside of iTunes and the App Store that they believe may be a scam should report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
The Division of Consumer Affairs also offers a few helpful tips for consumers who are considering purchasing gift certificates or discounted services for Valentine’s Day.
When you are sold a gift certificate in the State of Tennessee, remember:
- Carefully review the expiration date of the gift card. In general, the expiration date of a gift card you purchase should be at least five years after the date it was issued to you under the rules of the FTC and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act provides that a gift certificate must have an expiration date that is at least two years after the gift certificate is issued.
- You should not be charged a fee for the gift certificate to be issued to you.
- Within two years of purchasing the gift certificate, you should not be charged service fees (including dormancy fees, latency fees, or administrative fees) that reduce the total value of the gift certificate.
These restrictions may not apply to prepaid cards for making telephone calls or at multiple, unaffiliated merchants or at ATMS. They also may not apply to certain cards given as customer loyalty awards, given away or sold below face value to charitable organizations for
- fundraising, sold by a charitable organization for fundraising purposes, given to an employer by an employee for the employing business, or issued by an employer in recognition of services performed by an employee.
- As always with shopping, be aware of return policies which are typically displayed in the store, on the receipts or on the businesses website.
- Be sure to ask about the locations where the gift certificate(s) can be redeemed.
- Inquire about the terms and conditions associated with purchasing and redeeming the gift certificate(s).
Websites like Groupon or Living Social are commonly used to purchase discounted services as gifts. Those services might include a free or discounted cosmetology, manicure, or pedicure. Before purchasing a discounted service, call the company or individual offering the discount to ensure the offer is legitimate.
Remember these tips when you visit a cosmetology shop or nail salon to redeem your gift certificate or discount for services:
- The shop must be under the direction of a manager or designated managing at all times when the shop is open for business.
- Generally, people providing cosmetology services other than shampooing must have an active license at all times.
- Foot baths must be cleaned and disinfected after every use.
- In every shop, a current Tennessee license and graded inspection sheet should be posted for the public to view.
- Visit www.verify.tn.gov to ensure the individual or company is properly licensed to operate in the State of Tennessee.
- Visit www.tn.gov/regboards for more regulation information from the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners.
For more consumer tips, or to file a complaint, contact the TDCI Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-342-8385 or visit www.tn.gov/consumer.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance: TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.
To check a license of a professional regulated by the Department, go to http://verify.tn.gov/.