ARLINGTON, Virginia., December 2, 2021 / PRNewswire / – A shift to online shopping during COVID-19, a global supply chain crisis, and an economic recovery have all created a recipe for a frenzied holiday shopping season – a time when consumer fraud online shopping poses a huge risk to consumers. Online shopping scams have skyrocketed during pandemic, and social media ads play key role in growing problem, new Better Business Bureau® (BBB®) the study finds.

BBB study shows online shopping scams are the riskiest and could hinder the holiday shopping season.

The in-depth investigation study – Large-scale theft: online shopping fraud and the role of social media – finds that the pandemic, along with lax social commerce shopping platforms, has opened the door for scammers to rob desperate online shoppers. Read the full study.

Online shopping fraud has been on the rise for several years, but according to BBB research it has increased dramatically during the pandemic as more people shop online. A BBB survey found that 29% of people bought online before COVID-19, and that figure rose to 37% by the end of 2020. In turn, BBB Scam Tracker reports that online shopping scams have almost doubled from 2019 to 2020, and the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust has named online shopping scams as the riskiest scam of 2020, issuing special reports on this growing fraud in 2020 and 2021. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online shopping more than doubled in 2020 and continues to increase through 2021. Also, online shopping has more businesses rated BBB “F” than any other type of business. business.

Most of the online fraud reports reviewed involve a response to online advertisements. After placing an order, victims report not having received anything or received items that are counterfeit or inferior to what the ads promised. Scammers often take photos of products or a landing page of legitimate businesses, post them on popular social media platforms, and take online orders from the websites they create. This leads to complaints against legitimate businesses, as victims often don’t realize that they lost their money to a scammer rather than the business the scammer was describing.

Counterfeit and pirated products, which are the subject of a 2019 BBB investigative study, are commonplace in online shopping scams. Other reports of online fraud involve sites selling non-existent pets, vehicle shipping programs, and deceptive free trial offers.

Tips for avoiding online shopping scams:

  • Check the website before making a purchase:
    • Visit BBB.org to check a company’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Some crooks may copy the BBB seal. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile.
    • Search the Internet with the company name and the word “scam.” This may locate other complaints about the site.
  • Review Reviews: Scammers frequently post positive reviews on the website, copied from honest sites, or created by scammers. Be careful, some review sites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Look at the bad reviews first. These are more likely to be real and can help identify scams. A trusted resource for checking reviews is BBB.org.
  • Look up contact information: Be careful if the site doesn’t have a US or Canadian phone number, or uses a work Gmail or Yahoo email address.
  • Keep records: Note on the website what has been ordered. Take a screenshot of the ordered item, in case the website goes missing or if an item arrives that is different from what was advertised.
  • Pay by credit card: Credit cards often offer better protection against fraud than other payment methods.

Report online shopping fraud to:

  • Better Business Bureau – file a complaint on BBB.org or report it to BBB.org/scamtracker.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – file a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help.
  • National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center – report intellectual property violations and counterfeiting at iprcenter.gov/referral/view.
  • Internet Crime Complaint enter (IC3) – file a complaint at ic3.gov/complaint.
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Center – file a report at anti-fraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.
  • Facebook – Report ads that violate Facebook policies by clicking *** next to an ad to go to facebook.com/business/help.
  • Instagram – report copyright infringement or other policy violations at help.instagram.com.
  • Amazon – report suspicious activity and web pages on amazon.com.
  • Google – report scams on google.com.
  • PayPal – call (888) 221-1161 to speak to a live person instead of using the automated system.
  • Your credit card company – Call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report the fraud and request a refund.

About BBB

For over 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has helped people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB company profiles on 6.2 million companies and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization of independent local BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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SOURCE IABBB