Shopping online is great – if you stay safe! Here’s what you need to know to recognize an online shopping scam and avoid being the next victim.
How these scams play out
In one version of the scam, a shopper will scour the internet for a specific item in their desired price range. They will find the item retailing on a site at an attractive price and then proceed to make the purchase. They will share payment information, input their delivery address and complete the transaction. Unfortunately, though, the item never arrives on their doorstep. Alternatively, a cheap knockoff of the product will arrive instead of the item they have purchased. When the buyer tries to demand a refund, they are unable to reach the seller.
In another variation, a shopper finds an item online and tries to make a purchase. They will be asked to input sensitive information, such as a credit card or checking account number. At this point, the shopper will be unable to complete the transaction and will continuously run into errors on the site. However, the scammers now have their information.
In a third version of the online shopping scam, a seller clicks on an ad, or on a site that came up in a Google search for one of their favorite stores. They will proceed to make an order, not knowing they have actually clicked into a bogus look-a-like site run by scammers. The rest of the scam will follow one of the scenarios described above.
Watch for these warning signs that you may have stumbled upon a shopping scam:
- Prices are too good to be true. If you find an online offer for a new iPhone retailing at just $450, you are likely looking at a scam.
- The offer urges you to act now. If an offer warns that the bargain prices it is offering won’t last until sundown, it is likely a scam.
- The seller demands specific means of payment. If an online retailer insists that you pay via prepaid gift card or wire transfer, opt out.
- The website is full of typos and grammar errors. If the site is badly in need of editing, it may be run by scammers.
Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from online shopping scams:
- Only shop on safe, secure sites. Check the URL for the lock icon and for the “s” after the “http”.
- Check the URL for proper spelling of reputable sites. Make sure the URL of the site you’re on matches the authentic URL for that retailer and that you haven’t landed on a spoof site. You may want to save the genuine URLs on your computer for future use.
- Avoid clicking on high-pressure pop-ups and banner ads. These are often scams.
- Pay with a credit card when shopping online. A credit card offers the most protection for your purchases.
- Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Don’t input your credit card number or account details unless you are absolutely sure that you are dealing with a reputable website.
If you are targeted
If you have fallen victim to an online shopping scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. First, alert the FTC about the scam. If the alleged retailer is on the BBB website, you can let them know, too. If your credit card account has been compromised, you may want to place a fraud alert on your credit report. If you have paid with a gift card, contact the company to ask about a possible refund.
To help protect yourself from fraudulent activity, make sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® checking account with SeaComm! Once you upgrade your basic checking to Benefits Plus®, you will gain access to a full range of fraud and identity-theft protection services, including fraud alerts, lost document recovery services, 90-day Purchase Protection, and much more. Click here for more information, or stop by your local SeaComm branch to enroll.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.
Stay informed with SeaComm’s Fraud Center. As your credit union, we want to keep you and your finances safe. That’s why we created our Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources to help educate and empower our members to protect their assets and identities. Click here to get started!