(WKBN) – With COVID-19, more people are doing their holiday shopping online this year. That means more people are at risk of getting scammed.
First News spoke with those with the Better Business Bureau about how shoppers can protect themselves from scammers.
Melissa Ames, vice president of BBB Services, said a lot of people are online shopping — and shopping through social media — this year.
Right now, it’s quiet for the BBB, but she said people will start to send in complaints closer to Christmas, once they don’t receive gifts they’ve ordered.
Ames said they’ve seen a lot of scams this year due to the rise in online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. She expects it to be even higher during the holidays.
“What we’re seeing is that we’re purchasing from retailers that we’re unfamiliar with. We don’t know why they are. We don’t know their reputation in the marketplace, and often times, that is a red flag that you’re not going to get your product, your product is not going to be what you had anticipated it to be, and we’re just going to lose out in the end,” she said.
Ames said scammers are using new methods, like taking out Facebook or Instagram ads and setting up websites.
She shared details from a recent BBB survey about scams.
Ames said 81% of people who don’t do research on a product before buying it online end up losing out. They either don’t receive the product or lose money.
“If it’s a retailer that you’re not familiar with, you’re giving them personal information. You’re giving them payment, so you’re going to want to make sure that it’s a retailer you trust,” she said.
Ames said you should take a few minutes to check out a retailer by looking at their reviews and seeing if their website is secure. This research can also take place at the BBB website, where you can see if other consumers have complaints about the retailer.
Ames said if you can, using a credit card can protect you since some credit card companies will refund you the amount if you’re scammed.
Lastly, she said to avoid entering payment information while using a public network. Scammers could be on the network as well, trying to phish for information.
With the holiday season, Ames says people should also be on the lookout for donation scams.
Non-profit organizations will never rush you to make a donation, and they’ll be able to educate you about how the money will serve the community.
Ames also has advice if you’ve been the victim of an online scam.
First, she says to file a complaint with the BBB. That way, the BBB will reach out to the retailer to try and resolve the issue.
Ames also suggests disputing the charge with your bank or credit card company.
Lastly, with the possible risk of identity theft, you should monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.
Ames says if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you see a $100 PS5 or another hot-ticket item that is deeply discounted, you should be on alert for a possible scam.
Ames did say if you have a positive experience with a retailer, you should consider writing them a positive review on the BBB website. That way, you’re paying your research forward to other consumers.
More stories from WKBN.com: