7 tips to avoid online shopping scams over the holidays

Online shopping
Posted at 5:39 AM, Nov 19, 2021

(WXYZ) — The holiday shopping season is already underway, and many retailers have rolled out their sales earlier than usual.

With that, scammers have also started early, especially with online purchases. Here are seven different red flags you should look out for when it comes to scammers.

Nick Biasini, the head of outreach for Cisco Talos, a threat intelligence organization, said many scammers are trying to grab your attention online to lure you offline by dangling sweet deals related to the hottest toys out there.

"They’ll say ‘Hey, we have one of these consoles — I have a PS5. I’ll sell it to you for $1500. Just meet me here or give me your address and send me money,'" said Biasini. "And a lot of times what you get, you may actually get a PS5 box, but it may be filled with rocks.”

So, remember the Better Business Bureau's first online purchase scam prevention tip: If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“I can tell you from January of this year to November, we’ve had 449 people in Michigan lose $138,000 and change, and another $38,000 -- almost $40,000 -- attempted in loss," said Melanie Duquesnel, the President & CEO of the BBB serving Eastern Michigan and the U.P.

Tip number two: Before you buy, do your research.

The BBB found 81% of those who did not research the website through an independent source ended up losing money.

Three: Beware of fake websites. They often have grammatical mistakes, errors in the URL, and a slew of bad online reviews. Look for contact information. Watch out for new domain names.

Four: Beware of deals on social media. Scammers will try to entice you while you're scrolling along. Many schemers have access to tools that help them understand your buying behaviors, according to the BBB. So, they can float ads online to entice you by offering what you've been looking for.

Five: Watch out for fake tracking numbers. The BBB said 54% of those who received shipping information found out it was fake. The key here is NOT to click on the tracking link. The BBB advises you to go to the shipper's website and type in the tracking code for yourself to see if it's legit.

Six: Pay with a credit card. Do not use a debit card or other non-traditional method — like gift cards, pre-paid money cards, wire transfers, etc.

"You do not want to give the scammers direct access to your bank accounts," Duquesnel said.

Seven: Don't believe everything you see. Watch out for text messages from unknown numbers with links to gift cards. Clicking on that link tells the scammers a real person is on the other end of that number (or email or social media message).

"It's going to open up the gates to more and more scams," Duquesnel explained.

Scammers are also skilled at creating graphics, fonts, and seals that look official. For example, If you see the BBB accreditation seal, you can verify it on the BBB's website.

Whatever you do, don't shop on price alone. 73% of victims paid but never received a product.

For more information on online purchase scams, visit the BBB website.