With the 2020 holiday shopping season quickly approaching, COVID-19 has us filled with uncertainty on how that shopping will look.
With the bulk of our holiday shopping likely taking place online this year, the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust released its Online Purchase Scams Report 2020 on Oct. 27 to show the possible scams and shocking statistics that we face when shopping online.
The report showed that online purchase scams were among the top three riskiest scams for the last three years. Shoppers between the ages of 25 and 44 are most at risk for losing money to online purchase scams. Already in 2020, 80% of shoppers have reported losing money to online purchasing scams and those numbers will grow during the holiday shopping season.
The BBB has put together some helpful tips to avoid these scams this holiday season:
• If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase, then lost money, was price. Don’t shop on price alone.
• Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Respondents reported that website photos motivated them to engage with scammers, especially for pets/pet supplies, clothing/accessories and vehicles.
• Research before you buy. Out of the 57% who didn’t research the website or business via an independent source (like BBB.org) before making a purchase, 81% lost money.
• Beware of fake websites: Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, search for contact information and read online reviews.
• Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering up exactly what you want at enticing low prices.
• Shipment tracking information can be faked. Look closely to make sure it’s a legitimate business. Don’t just click on the tracking link; go to the shipper’s website and type in the code to see if it’s real.
• Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. According to BBB’s research, those who paid with a credit card or PayPal were less likely to lose money. Avoid paying by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card or other non-traditional payment methods.
• Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts and other details. The website or email may look official, but it doesn’t mean it is. If a business displays a BBB Accreditation Seal, verify it by going to BBB.org
• Make sure the website is secure. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “http” — it is NOT secure.
• Be careful purchasing sought-after products, especially during the holiday season. The risk of online purchase scams rises during the holidays because more people are making online purchases, and scammers are offering the most popular products for the season at great prices.
If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker. Your story will help other consumers avoid similar scams.
Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.