Online shopping poses biggest risks to consumers

Here’s how you can protect yourself

Online shopping has certainly made it easier to purchase products and services. But for many, that convenience has come with consequences.

The most recent BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report revealed that, for a third consecutive year, online purchases were the riskiest scam encountered by consumers. Nearly 75% of those who reported being targeted by an online scam ultimately lost money. Products most frequently used to deceive victims included pets/pet supplies, digital devices, and motor vehicles.

With online shopping here to stay, showing caution and performing research before you buy is increasingly important. Better Business Bureau recommends these tips for shopping smarter and safer online:

Confirm the business is legit

A professional-looking website isn’t an indication of a company’s legitimacy. Con artists often mimic real companies’ websites to fool consumers into making a payment or providing their personal information. Before shopping, search for the company on to verify licensing requirements as well as to read complaints and reviews left by previous customers. Then confirm you are on the correct website by searching for the business via the web browser and double-checking the URL.

Think before you click

Clicking a link is easy but it might take you to a questionable website. Be cautious when an email or an online ad has a link to take advantage of the great deals. The link can direct you to an impersonated site and download malware directly onto your device. Both cons can lead to identity theft.

Too good to be true

Offers of free items are enticing. However, check for hidden costs or any monthly recurring fees. Also, when the supply of an item is low, the price is higher. Don’t get fooled by a great deal on a hard-to-find item.

Read the fine print

Read the fine print before submitting your order, especially the return policy. Check if the company accepts returns and if there is a restocking fee.

Shop with a credit card

Credit cards provide additional protection, and it is easier to dispute charges you didn’t approve or get your money back. Debit, prepaid or gift cards don’t offer the same protections.

Keep your receipts

Save a copy of all correspondence with the company until you receive and are satisfied with the product. According to the FTC, when shopping online, sellers are to ship your order within the time stated in their ads or within 30 days if no timeline is expressed. If the item doesn’t arrive in the allotted time, then the seller must notify the consumer and then give them the option to cancel with a refund.

Roseann Freitas is a PR and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau Great West and Pacific region.

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