During the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping is booming, but those online purchases are also hitting consumers hard when it comes to getting scammed.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina, there have been $25,663 in losses for online purchases since March 1 for consumers in its 33-county service area to online scams.
The agency said most online purchase scams where people lost money were material items such as rugs, home decor, clothing but the majority of large losses that were $500 and above were all pet scams.
The Federal Trade Commission also said that it has received record numbers about problems related to online shopping. While online shopping complaints to the FTC have been on the rise for a number of years, reports of undelivered items in May 2020 alone represent a nearly two-fold increase over the number of reports in December 2019, the heart of the busy holiday shopping season.
Just in the last month, the number of scams reported to the BBB of Eastern North Carolina has doubled.
"Scammers are always looking to create a sense of fear or urgency with their victims and unfortunately, this year seems like the perfect storm for that, the pandemic, matched with unemployment, matched with it just being everyone's tension already being high," Catherine Honeycutt with the BBB said.
Tips for Online shopping from the BBB
- Ensure the site is secure: https, lock icon, and green URL (if Apple product)
- Research the business. Check out its business profile at bbb.org for consumer reviews/complaints and any alerts.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge (as recently reported with the Noom app). Look for and read the fine print.
- Beware of Phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand, but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft.
- Shop with a credit card as you can dispute the charge if something goes wrong.