COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As the holiday shopping season ramps up, the Better Business Bureau warns, be careful where you click.
As legitimate online retailers try to entice you with discounts, scammers also want a piece of your paycheck.
“Online shopping reports to the BBB Scam Tracker remain just under the all-time high that was reached in 2021, which was, of course, when all the online shopping itself increased so dramatically with the pandemic,” said Judy Dollison, President of the BBB of Central Ohio. “This year is on pace to equal or exceed last year’s numbers, with losses estimated to be more than $380 million.”
One of the most common scams this year involves offers of high-end, designer handbags at low-end prices.
Tony Sabaj, head of engineering for Check Point Software, said that while his firm has tracked a dramatic uptick in this type of scam since October, it’s become difficult to thwart.
“It’s 88offbags.co., and then there’s 87off bags.co, and then there’s 86offbags.co…” Sabaj said. “If they constantly change their website, it makes it much harder to stop these types of scams.”
At best, the scam can leave you with a cheap knock-off.
“They’re capturing your money. And even worse, sometimes they’re capturing your personal identifiable information,” Dollison said.
In a press release, the BBB offered this advice for safe online shopping this holiday season:
- Beware of fake look alike websites. Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, search for contact information, and read online reviews.
- Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Scammers often steal photos off other websites.
- Ensure 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.
- Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering exactly what you want at enticingly low prices.
- Be careful purchasing sought-after products. If something is sold out everywhere, don’t be tempted by a seemingly great deal. Scammers often trick shoppers by offering the most popular products at low prices.
- Pay with a credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, the consumer will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Be very wary of any retailer that asks you to pay by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards, or other non-traditional payment methods.
- If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and lost money was the price. Don’t shop on price alone.
- Report unsatisfactory purchase experiences to BBB. Consumers who are unhappy with a purchase should file a complaint at BBB.org/complaints. If a consumer never received an item, he/she should consider reporting it to BBB Scam Tracker to help other consumers avoid being scammed.