CLEVELAND — Shopping online is convenient and it’s something many of us are relying on now more than ever.
But there are risks.
More scammers are lurking the web this year, posing as trusted sites and waiting for you to click and take the bait.
“If you have been scammed don’t be embarrassed don’t think you’re an idiot it happens to everybody,” said Sue McConnell, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Greater Cleveland.
Scammers win at their job more often than you think and it’s hard not to get baited. They are now targeting you on social media with fake ads.
“The scammers use well-known reputable brands to fool you,” McConnell said.
The BBB says this year about 80% of consumers reported online purchasing scams and never got their money back. That number has been creeping up since 2015 when only 71.2 of online scams were reported, but it skyrocketed because of the pandemic.
So how do you protect yourself from being a victim this holiday season? McConnell says it starts with not shopping on any sites you aren’t familiar with. She says it’s important to know where a website was originated and when it was created. Sites like WhoIs.com can help verify that information.
“If it’s just a very new site you may want to rethink purchasing from it,” McConnell explained. “We have laws in this country that protect you with online shopping and protect you against scams, but if the company is not located in this country it’s not the same set of rules.”
McConnell says you should also check to see if the business’s contact information and return policy listed is legit and never pay for anything online with a debit card.
“If you pay with your debit card and that money comes right out of your account and the bank is not obligated to return it to you should you find out that you’ve been scammed,” she said.
Lastly, take your time. Those flashy “act fast” deals aren’t always good.
“The sense of urgency [is] what scam sites will create,” McConnell said. “You need to take a breath and make a calm, informed decision.”
If you or anyone else come across a scam site or fell for a scam make sure you report it. That’s the best way to make sure it doesn’t happen to you or anyone else again.