With holiday shopping being largely online for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers to look out for online scams this season.
In order to combat COVID-19 rates, many stores are moving their Black Friday deals online to reduce in-store crowds. With Cyber Monday also being one of the top shopping days of the year, the majority of holiday shopping in 2020 is expected to be done online. According to an Accenture survey, 75% of consumers reported that they would do some of their holiday shopping online.
Online shopping isn't without its risks, however. While you're less likely to spread and contract the virus by shopping online, the BBB is warning consumers to be wary of online scams over the next few weeks. In their 2020 Online Purchase Scams Report, the BBB found that the top reason that people lost their money to online scams was due to being enticed by a sales price. Consumers place orders for something they thought was a good deal, only to receive something of lower quality or discover that their order never shipped.
In 2020 so far, BBB has received 53,000 complaints from people who have had problems with online purchases,” said Jane Rupp, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Nevada and Utah. “Holidays add increased pressure and make us more vulnerable to scams. So as we get to the biggest holiday shopping day of the year, plus factoring in COVID concerns, people have to be wary.”
BBB provided the following tips to help keep your money safe while you're online shopping this holiday season:
- Beware of false advertising and phony websites: If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. Make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers.
- Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only: Be wary of businesses you aren’t familiar with. Check their BBB Business Profile on BBB.org, look at the rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, be sure any web page you purchase from is secure. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://. Never put personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure web pages.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date: Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.
- Price check before you buy: Dozens of online retailers will claim they have the best price on an item, but their offers can be misleading. Do your homework by comparing prices. Remember that the best deal may not be the real deal.
- Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Check your credit card rewards program for special point offers that could add up on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. Make purchases using loyalty programs; many major retailers have them.
- Use your credit card: It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer this same protection. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.
- Understand return policies: Online store policies may change for online Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers. Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you would like to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closeout” items. Make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.
- Watch out for phishing scams: Busy schedules and increased purchases make it easier to miss – and fall victim to – a phishing scam. Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, calls, or letters. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. Avoid phishing scams by ignoring suspicious correspondence and calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.
To report scams or other suspicious activity, go to BBB's Scam Tracker.