Online shopping scams on social media increased during pandemic

Local News

Courtesy: BBB

BOSTON (WWLP) – A study conducted by the Better Business Bureau shows scams have increased for online purchases during the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to the shift toward online shopping during COVID-19, a global supply chain crisis, and a resurging economy, fraud poses a tremendous risk to consumers. Online purchase scams have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and social media ads play a key role in the mushrooming problem, according to a study by Better Business Bureau.

Theft on a massive scale: Online shopping fraud and the role of social media

The study finds shopping platforms online have opened the door for scammers in China to steal from desperate online shoppers. The BBB says the increase of scams during the pandemic is due to more people shopping online.

A BBB survey found 29% of people shopped online before COVID-19, and this increased to 37% by the end of 2020 and online shopping scams nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. The fraud reports were mostly in response to online ads on Facebook and Instagram.

“After placing an order, victims report receiving nothing or receiving items that were counterfeit or inferior from what the ads promised. Scammers often take product photos or a landing page from legitimate businesses, post them on Facebook and Instagram and take online orders at websites they create. This leads to complaints against legitimate businesses, as victims often do not realize they have lost their money to a scammer rather than the business the scammer was portraying.”

Better Business Bureau

A woman from Missouri contacted BBB when a company refused to giver her a refund. She says she ordered a decanter and two cups from an ad on Facebook ad, but only received one cup. When she contacted the company to complain about how the set was depicted in the ad versus what was received, she was told she had only ordered one cup.

BBB’s study makes the following consumer protection recommendations: 

  • Facebook should do more to enforce its policies for third party sellers.
  • BBB urges credit card payment processors to put more effort into combating those who provide merchant accounts to sellers who engage in fraud.
  • U.S. consumers would benefit from a program to help counterfeit victims with chargebacks like one operated in Canada by the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre (CAFC). Such a program may help identify crooked credit card merchant accounts, bogus websites, and points of origin for counterfeit goods.
  • More regulatory oversight is needed regarding companies that use websites to market products from China but deliver counterfeit goods, items not as advertised, or nothing at all.

Tips for avoiding online purchase scams: 

  • Check out the website before making a purchase: 
  • Check BBB.org to check a business’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Some crooks may copy the BBB seal. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile. 
  • Scamadviser.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. One trusted resource to check reviews is at BBB.org. Be aware, some review websites claim to be independent but are funded 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. or 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. 

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