With online shopping scams now the most common swindle reported to the Better Business Bureau, the organization is reminding consumers to use caution during the holiday shopping season.
Of the complaints to the BBB Scamtracker in 2020 in which customers reported losing money, 64% concerned an online purchase. That’s up from 13% in 2015.
Increasingly, consumers are finding problematic websites through social media, the BBB reports.
“Social media can be a great place to share gift ideas and find items you might not have considered,” said Phil Catlett, president of the BBB Serving Western Michigan. “Unfortunately, an increasing number of websites we see advertising on Facebook and Instagram have poor track records of delivering products on time. That can be especially problematic right now, when you need to have the gift by a certain date.”
The BBB is offering advice to shoppers gearing up for Black Friday, Nov. 27, Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, and even Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.
- Beware offers that are too good to be true. Most major retailers and websites have similar deals, especially on the hot items. Check pricing at other stores and websites and beware of prices that are significantly lower.
- Do the research. Research the store or website at BBB.ORG and shop at places you know and trust.
- Know the return policy. How long do you have to return the item? Do you need the receipt? Does it have to remain in the packaging? The return window begins when you purchase the item, not when you give it as a gift.
- Just because it is on social media doesn’t make it true. Beware of offers on social media. Many complaints to BBB are from customers who made a purchase through a website they found on social media and never received their order.
- Research websites before making a purchase. Go to BBB.ORG or do a Google search if you are not familiar with the website to see what others are saying about the company. If you cannot find information about the website, it probably hasn’t been around very long.
- Shop sites you know and trust. Look for the item you want on websites you already know and trust. Even if the item costs a little more, it may be worth the peace of mind knowing the order will arrive as expected.
- Use a credit card. Credit cards give consumers added protections if a purchase goes wrong. Beware of sellers that ask for payment with a gift card.
- Double check delivery times and return policies. COVID-19 has extended some delivery times. Before making a purchase, understand when the item is expected to be delivered and the return policy.
- Plan giving ahead of time. Don’t wait for an organization to contact you. Think about causes and groups and make a plan to give.
- Research the charity. Learn about the organization at GIVE.ORG. See if they have taken part in the BBB’s free charity review program and if they are an accredited charity. See what others are saying about the organization.
- Contact the charity. Contact the charity and ask questions. Learn about how your gift will be used, and other opportunities for you to support the group beyond donating money.
- Don’t feel pressured to give. Avoid committing to a donation when contacted by phone. Instead, gather information about a charity and do some research before donating.
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