Like most everything right now, holiday shopping is expected to be different in 2020. You likely won’t see crowded stores and long checkout lines normally associated with this time of year. Those are now activities more likely to spread germs than holiday cheer.
But not even the Grinch could steal Christmas.
Some retailers kicked off the holiday shopping season with deals beginning as early as October. Any sense of urgency that typically accompanies Black Friday purchases has been replaced by a somewhat slower pace. Most of this year’s sales have been ongoing, and they’re almost all happening online.
With more people abiding by social distancing requirements, online shopping in 2020 is now expected to see a 28% increase over last year.
But buyer beware: The internet is filled with fake sites, fraudulent deals and illegitimate retailers designed to dupe shoppers. A study released by Better Business Bureau revealed that more than 80% of consumers who reported an online purchase scam in 2020 ultimately lost money.
One of the most common tactic scammers use to steal payments are marketing “must-have” toys that top wish lists each year. Due to their high demand, those gifts tend to be expensive and hard to find. Scammers use their scarcity to trick consumers out of their holiday cash.
By lifting photos and logos from legitimate online retailers, con artists create fake websites offering in-demand toys at low prices. The messaging usually includes “last-minute deals” or “flash sales” or “limited quantities.” Unfortunately, many such offers are not what they appear.
When purchasing products or services online this holiday season, BBB recommends following these tips for shopping safer and smarter:
Do your research. Shoppers aren’t just purchasing more products online right now; they’re also doing their homework. This year alone, BBB.org experienced a 383% increase in searches for online retailers. Read reviews and compare prices to make sure what’s offered meets your expectations.
No quick decisions. Beware of making impulse purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have the tools to learn your buying behaviors and can fool you with ads for products you want at what appears to be incredibly low prices.
Pay securely. According to BBB research, consumers who pay with a credit card are less likely to lose money. Be cautious when paying by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards or other non-traditional payment methods.
Be a skeptic. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivator for people who lost money on a purchase was price. Unreasonably low prices are a red flag. Scammers advertise high-demand products at a significantly reduced dollar amount to make the item more enticing.
Find more resources on how to shop safer and smarter this holiday season at trust-bbb.org.
Ben Spradling is the Western Washington Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.