Don’t get bamboozled by holiday shopping scams

Holiday Scam

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Maria Grenyo

As more and more people spend less time in stores and more shopping online, there’s an increased potential for deal-seekers to find themselves out of their hard-earned cash instead.

Better Business Bureau Central and South Alabama Communications Manager Alex Derencz said he expects plenty of online shoppers this year, meaning online scammers are waiting in the wings.

“We’ve got the increase in online shopping, and we’ve also got those shortages that we’re seeing. And the two of those mixed together likely means more online purchasing scams,” Derencz said.

Online scams are often based around fake websites, counterfeit goods or falsified reviews hyping up a faulty or lackluster product.

Watch out for fake websites, which usually contain spelling errors. If you’re shopping outside major companies like Amazon, Etsy, Ebay or other online giants, you can search for the business on the Better Business Bureau‘s website.

When checking reviews on Amazon, you can use review-checking tools like Review Meta or Fakespot and scan a product’s page for paid-for or falsified reviews.

And don’t hit “buy” without giving your purchase a solid few minutes of consideration, Derencz said.

“Scammers are very crafty,” he said. “They’re always watching the news. They’re always looking at the calendar.”

Pay attention to prices on high-demand items, because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Use a secure payment method like a credit card, and avoid paying an online business via peer-to-peer payment methods like Cashapp or Venmo. Credit cards often have more protections against fraud than debit cards, so consider using a credit card or a prepaid card instead of a debit card when shopping online.

“Many of those payment apps won’t shoulder the cost of fraud,” he said.

If you’re using Paypal, make sure you’re not using the “Friends or family” option. You’ll pay more in fees, but will be covered if you don’t get what you ordered.

Popup ads are rarely legitimate, so never click those. Instead, visit websites directly or search for them using a search engine.

“Go directly to that website,” he said. “Physically type in that website to take you to it as opposed to clicking on one of those links, because you could find yourself in a situation where you click a link and you stumble down that rabbit hole where it asks you for personal information.”

If you find yourself out of money or even worse, with charges on your card you didn’t make, call your bank and dispute the charges as soon as possible. After that’s done, you can leave a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the Alabama General Attorney’s Office.

“The biggest thing is just to use your judgment, trust your gut and use reliable, trusted payment methods such as credit cards,” he said. “If you do those things you can ensure yourself of having a wonderful and safe holiday season.”

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