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During holiday shopping season, authorities warn to check receipts

CARLSBAD — This year, holiday shoppers are urged to do more than just hunt down the perfect sweater vest and latest princess Barbie. 

This holiday season, San Diego County Department of AWM (Agriculture, Weights and Measures) is asking consumers to double-check their receipts for overcharges by faulty cash registers, and the Carlsbad Police Department is asking shoppers to help prevent shopping crime.

Last year, one out of every five stores inspected by the AWM had overcharging errors.

To help reduce overcharging throughout the county the AWM is recommending that shoppers verify the prices on receipts and notify store management immediately if there are any price discrepancies.

Through its Scanner Awareness Program, the AWM has been inspecting stores for price scanner errors since 1999. The AWM issues fines ranging from $50 to more than $1,000 for significant overcharging violations.

In 2011, the AWM found that when price-scanning errors occur consumers were four times as likely to be charged too much, rather than too little.

So far this year, the AWM has inspected 20,118 items in 1,501 stores, according to Nancy Stalnaker, the AWM’s supervising agricultural standards inspector.

Major chain stores in North County including Vons, Walmart, 7-Eleven, and Rite Aid have already received large fines this year for overcharging violations. Walgreens on Cannon Road in Oceanside received a fine for $1,300; the biggest fine so far in 2012, as a result of overcharging violations discovered during an inspection this June.

In addition to the AWM’s warnings about cash register errors, the Carlsbad Police Department is also urging shoppers to beware of shopping crimes as crowds flood shopping centers during the holiday season.

“The more people that you have out and about…you just have more opportunity for crime,” said Carlsbad Police Department Public Information Officer Jodee Sasway.

She advised that shoppers help diminish the opportunity for crime by keeping a close eye on personal belongings and purchases, as well as avoiding leaving valuable items unattended in cars.

The Carlsbad police will also be increasing patrols near shopping centers during the season to deter crimes including thefts from vehicles, shoplifting and fraud.

“We just want to make sure that everybody has a great, crime-free holiday season,” said Sasway.