Consumers are predicted to spend just under $1,000 each this holiday season on friends and loved ones, according to the National Retail Federation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most consumers are expected to do some or all of their holiday shopping online.
As BBB reported recently, the prevalence of online purchase scams is increasing, with online purchase scams ranking among the top three riskiest scams for the last three years, according to the 2019 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report published in March 2020.
Experts predict at least a 35 percent increase in e-commerce sales allowing retailers to enhance online offerings much earlier than the traditional Black Friday deals. For consumers, this also means more reading, researching, and checking on both the products and the sellers.
BBB recommends the following tips to “Shop Safe, Shop Smart” this holiday season:
Research before you buy. Out of the 57% who did not research the website or business via an independent source (like BBB.org) before making a purchase, 81% lost money.
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.
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.
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.
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 offer the most popular products for the season at great prices.
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.
Look for the BBB seal. BBB Accredited Businesses pledge to uphold the BBB Standards for Trust and to deal fairly with consumers. If a business displays a BBB seal, verify it by going to BBB.org.
Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. According to BBB’s research, those who paid with a credit card were less likely to lose money. Be cautious when paying by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards, or other non-traditional payment methods.
Shipment tracking information can be faked. Look closely to make sure it is a legitimate business. Avoid clicking on the tracking link; go to the ‘shipper’s website and type in the code to see if it is real.
Report unsatisfactory purchase experiences to BBB. If you are unhappy with a purchase, file a complaint at BBB.org/complaints. If you never got what you paid for, consider reporting it to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) to help other consumers avoid being scammed.