Online shopping continues to be a popular way to make a purchase these days. Unfortunately, it can also prove troublesome. Last year, BBB Scam Tracker reported more than 10,000 online shopping scams, more than double the reported number in 2017. In South Texas last month there were more than 70 reported cases around the Holiday shopping season with individuals losing anywhere from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. Some common online purchases that resulted in these scam reports included vehicles, clothing apparel, even puppies.
The scam typically starts as a sponsored online advertisement on social media, an email solicitation or a post on a classified site. Once you click through to a website, you’re often enticed with flashy pictures or language to buy now at a low price, or you could miss out. In some cases, you must engage directly with an individual and provide payment through wire transfer. In many cases, once payment is made, the communication stops and it’s often difficult to get a hold of the seller and get your money back.
BBB has advice on avoiding a potential online purchase scam like this:
•Know the Advertiser: Fake sites can easily be created, and mimic famous retailer’s websites. You should always make sure you check the URL to ensure you’re on the right website. It’s also important to cross check language on the site through an online search, along with doing a reverse image search to see if the same picture is being used on multiple websites.
•Beware of Phishing: Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand but clicking unfamiliar links can place you at risk for identity theft. It’s important to make sure you hover over the link first to ensure that link is going to a destination you’re familiar with.
•Update Anti-Virus Software: Make sure you have the latest anti-virus software updated on your desktop system, and your phone has the latest security updates.
When deciding to make a purchase, BBB suggests the following:
•Use Secure Sites: Use sites that have ‘https’ where ‘s’ stands for secure, and sites that typically have the lock icon.
•Understand the Terms: Read the terms and conditions (usually in smaller print), along with the return policy beforehand to know what you’re signing up for. It’s also important to read the site’s privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.
•Pay with a Credit Card: This will offer additional protections – avoid paying through wire transfer and other forms of payment as it might be more difficult to get your money back if there is an issue.
•Keep Documentation: Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and you’re satisfied with the product or service.
For more information regarding online purchase scams, or to report a scam happening to you, visit