(WFRV) – ‘Tis the season for holiday shopping! Local law enforcement and the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) are giving tips for safely shopping online – hopefully in time to save you from a holiday headache.
According to a release from the BBB, a shift toward online shopping during COVID-19, a global supply chain crisis, and a resurging economy have all created a recipe for a breakneck holiday shopping season – one where online shopping fraud poses a larger risk to consumers.
Most online fraud reports examined by the BBB involve a response to online ads on Facebook and Instagram. After placing an order, consumers report receiving nothing or receiving items that were counterfeit or inferior to what the ads promised.
Be mindful of where you shop online
BBB officials say scammers can sometimes take product photos or a page from legitimate businesses, post them on Facebook and Instagram, and take online orders at websites they create – which can lead to complaints against legitimate businesses.
In November 2021, BBB explains that a Milwaukee woman reported she nearly lost $104 after buying something she saw on Facebook Marketplace. Fortunately, they say she was able to receive a refund through Paypal.
“I was directed to a website from a Facebook Marketplace listing… After two weeks, I contacted the email address provided for an update – but received no response,” the woman reported to BBB. “I called the phone number provided on the website and discovered that the number is for another, unrelated legitimate store based in California.”
BBB tips for weeding out scammers online
BBB has released a few helpful recommendations for shoppers to stay safe this holiday season:
- Check out the website before making a purchase:
- Check BBB.org to check a business’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Some scammers may copy the BBB seal, but if it is real, clicking on the seal and it will lead to the company’s BBB profile.
- Scamadvisor.com can often tell you how long a website has been in operation. Scammers create and close websites regularly, so a site that has only been operating for a short time could raise red flags.
- Do an internet search with the company name and the word “scam.” This may locate other complaints about the site.
- Scrutinize reviews: Scammers frequently post positive reviews on their websites, either copied from honest sites or created by scammers. Look at the bad reviews first. These are more likely to be real and can help identify scams.
- Search for contact information: Use caution if the site does not have a U.S. and Canadian phone number or uses a Gmail or Yahoo business email address.
- Keep a record of what you ordered: Make a note of the website where you ordered goods. Take a screenshot of the item ordered in case the website disappears or you receive an item that differs from what was advertised.
- Pay by credit card: Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods.
What to do after you hit ‘purchase’
The Green Bay Police Department (GBPD) met with Local 5 Live Thursday and gave viewers tips for the upcoming shopping spree. They say some simple tricks for protecting your packages is to get them inside as soon as you can after they are delivered.
The GBPD says they will see some of these thieves actually follow delivery trucks to grab people’s orders right after they are placed at your home.
The Sturgeon Bay Police Department gave the following examples of what you can do to get your packages before they could get swiped:
- Request notifications on your deliveries – either by phone, text, or email.
- Monitor packages – when they are in transit or if they are delivered.
- Always require a signiture on your deliveries to ensure packages are never left unattended.
- Consider sending deliveries to alternet location. A place where someone will be there to recieve the package or the shiping companies pick up location/post office.
- Schedule your deliveries for a date and time when you will expect to be home.
- Set up a vacation hold if you plan on traveling during the holidays.
Sturgeon Bay officers say between Thanksgiving and New Years is the time when most mail thefts happen.
Where to report online fraud
If you think you or someone you know has been taken advantage of online, the BBB suggests contacting the following locations:
- Better Business Bureau – file a complaint at BBB.org or report a scam at BBB.org/scamtracker.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – file a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help.
- National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center – report intellectual property and counterfeiting violations to iprcenter.gov/referral/view.
- Internet Crime Complaint enter (IC3) – file a complaint at ic3.gov/complaint.
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – file a report at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.
- Facebook – report ads that violate Facebook’s policies by clicking the *** next to an ad to go to facebook.com/business/help.
- Instagram – report copyright infringement or other policy violations at help.instagram.com.
- Amazon – report suspicious activities and webpages at amazon.com.
- Google – report scams at google.com.
- PayPal – call (888) 221-1161 to speak with a live person instead of using its automated system if you receive an item that is not as advertised.
- Your credit card company – Call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report the fraud and request your money back.
For more information, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002.