Fast, simple and efficient online shopping has been taking the world by storm since the mid-1990s. Recently, online retailers have intersected with social media platforms through the use of advertisements. This new, exciting marketing technique has provided an efficient and hassle-free online shopping experience. However, scammers have caught on to the craze and have begun conning people.
According to CBS News, an individual is exposed to more than 5,000 advertisements a day on social media alone. What began as a social platform has quickly turned into a leading sales market. Ads are eye-catching, easy to navigate and seemingly trustworthy, which is precisely why scammers have used them to take over the online marketplace.
Common social media advertisements promote products, such as clothing, knick-knacks, makeup or gaming devices. Once someone clicks on an ad, he or she is often taken to the online retailer’s website to check out available products and place an order without a second thought. Little does the shopper know, scammers are sometimes behind the ads. They take funds from bank accounts, but the order never arrives.
In 2018, BBB received 10,518 nationwide reports from people about potential online shopping scams through its Scam Tracker. BBB Scam Tracker is an online tool that enables consumers and businesses to report scams in an effort to prevent others from falling prey to similar cons. The easy-to-use tool collects and presents scam data in a searchable online “heat map,” showing users the number and types of scams and hoaxes reported in their communities. This number is believed to be on the low side as many of these scams go unreported.
BBB’s investigation of such opportunities consistently find the following of online shopping scams:
• Online retail scam sites can appear advanced and legitimate.
• Shoppers are given false tracking numbers for their orders.
• Shoppers are charged up front for the products through a credit or debit card.
• Shoppers never receive the ordered products.
• The business fails to communicate when a problem occurs.
BBB offers the following tips to protect yourself:
• Verify the company’s location and contact information.
• Look for https:// in the URL for secure transmission of your personal information, as well as a locked padlock on the purchase or shopping cart page.
• Research the company. Use trusted third-party resources, such as your Better Business Bureau. Visit www.bbb.org or call 800-776-5301 to get lists of BBB-accredited businesses in specific industries and business profiles on companies you’re considering doing business with and check out customer reviews on businesses.
• Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly.
Online retailers provide an effective and easy way to shop, but it’s important to remember that not all retailers are as they appear. Protect yourself by doing your research. Together, we can take back the online marketplace and educate one another on how to be savvy shoppers.
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.