Beware of Online Shopping Scams
Easy ways to protect yourself
In This Article
• Scammers take advantage of people looking for hard-to-find products
• They set up fake websites or even use Amazon merchant accounts
• They collect money but don't deliver
• They're nearly impossible to contact
• Learn how to protect yourself below
Scammers set up websites, or even use Amazon.com, to sell things in high demand such as hand sanitizer and face masks.
Their activity has grown significantly due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, they prey on people desperately looking for critical supplies.
The scammers collect the money but fail to deliver the products, which they never intended to do.
If buyers try to find out what's going on, the scammers will promise delivery and offer (fake) tracking numbers. They'll delay and delay, and at some point stop responding.
People who get scammed this way almost never get their money back.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to prevent being scammed this way.
Your Best Defense
There are ways to spot a online shopping site that's a scam and tips to avoid them.
Restrict your online shopping to well-known and trusted websites. Stick to Amazon.com and the websites for major retailers.
Double-check the web address. Scammers sometimes use addresses that look very similar to legitimate sites by swapping letters (like '0' for 'O' or 'i' for 'l') More about this here.
Go directly to the website in your browser rather than clicking a search engine result. Scammers can trick search engines into making their sites look like the real ones in search results.
If you use Amazon.com, install the free Fakespot browser extension. It provides a “letter grade” based on the reputation of the seller. It also adjusts the Amazon rating by filtering out reviews that appear to be fake.
If you have to shop on an unfamiliar site, go to Google and enter its name and the word “scam” to see if there are any warnings.
Be skeptical: If a price is “too good to be true” or a very hard to find item is suddenly available, you might be on a scammer's site.
Understand that just because a website appears high in search results does not mean it's legitimate.
Also understand that just because a site uses encryption (shows a padlock icon and has an 's' after the 'http') does not mean it's legitimate.
Look for spelling or grammar mistakes on the site. Some scammers don't speak English fluently and make mistakes.
Use a site like ResellerRatings.com to find merchant reviews. If the site you're shopping on is not reviewed, it could be a scam site.
Enter the merchant's website address on Google's safe browsing site status tool to see if unsafe content has been detected.
When checking out, don't provide more information than necessary. All a merchant should need is your billing and shipping info.
Never use a debit card or PayPal (if linked to your bank account). It is nearly impossible to recover money transferred using these methods.
Never pay via wire transfer, money order, or gift cards. Any site requiring one of those is practically yelling that it's a scam.
Alway use a major credit card, which will have much stronger fraud protection and also gives you some legal rights.
If you think you've been scammed, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
When we're desperately looking for something online, we can easily fall prey to a scammer's website. This article showed you how to spot such sites and how to shop safely online.
If you have any questions about anything here or if there's an issue you'd like us to write about please get in touch.
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