Rebecca Barr with the Better Business Bureau says the internet is filled with fake sites, fraudulent deals, and illegitimate retailers designed to dupe shoppers. One BBB study revealed that more than 80% of consumers who reported an online purchase scam in 2020 lost money.
Scam artists typically take advantage of the "must-have" toys that are on the top of holiday wish lists. Due to their high demand, those gifts tend to be expensive and hard to find, and scammers use the scarcity to trick consumers out of their holiday cash.
By lifting photos and logos from legitimate online retailers, con artists create fake websites offering in-demand toys at low prices. The messaging usually includes “last-minute deals” or “flash sales” or “limited quantities.” Unfortunately, many such offers are rarely as good as they appear.
One shopper reported to BBB Scam Tracker that a $59.99 Baby Yoda toy quickly fell short of expectations upon arrival. The shopper said the toy was supposed to be animated and make sounds, but when it arrived, it was a plastic hand puppet. The shopper contacted the company for a refund and an address to send it back. The company responded that the shopper would have to pay $20 for shipping and would be given a 10% refund.
So how can we protect ourselves from scammers this holiday season? First, be a smart shopper. According to BBB survey respondents, out of the 57% who did not research the website or business before making a purchase, more than four out of five lost money. This year alone, BBB's website experienced a 383% increase in searches for online retailers. Shoppers aren’t just purchasing more products online right now; they’re also doing their homework.
Also, beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have tools to learn about your buying behaviors, enticing you with advertisements for products you want at low prices. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The top motivator for people who lost money on a purchase was the price. Unreasonably low prices are a red flag. Scammers offer high-demand products at a significantly reduced dollar amount to make the item more enticing.
For more tips to keep your finances and identity safe, click here.