It’s now less than two months until Christmas, and with expected shortages of many items due to supply chain bottlenecks and shipping delays, many people have already started their Christmas shopping.
If you do some of your Christmas shopping online, you should be on high alert this year for online shopping scams. These accounted for more than one-third of all scam reports filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) this year.
Three out of every four online shopping victims paid for items they never received, according to the BBB. Many of them said they didn’t think they were being scammed at first because of pandemic-related shipping delays and supply chain issues.
Don’t Be Victimized
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help you avoid being victimized by online shopping scams:
- Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. Also, do an online search using the seller’s name and the word “scam” to see if other shoppers have had problems with them.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card for online purchases. Credit card purchases have more legal protections than debit cards. For example, it’s easier to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payments while an investigation is going on when using a credit card.
- Look carefully at the shipping date. If no shipping date is listed, the seller has up to 30 days by law to ship the item. If you’re notified about a shipping delay and no longer wish to receive the item, you have the right to cancel and receive a full refund. If the seller refuses to issue a refund or doesn’t respond, contact the issuer of the credit card you used for the purchase and ask them to reverse the charge.
- Track and safeguard your purchases. Be sure to get tracking numbers for all online purchases so you can see where your items are at any time. You might also want to have items held at the post office for you to pick up in case you’re not home when they’re delivered to safeguard them from “porch pirates.” Some of the bigger online retailers have secure locations where items can be delivered so you can pick them up yourself.
Fake Notices: Another Online Scam
Fake shipping and package delivery notices are another type of online shopping scam. Thieves send out spam emails with subject lines like “order status” or “delivery problem” supposedly from UPS, FedEx or Amazon saying that there’s a problem with an online order. When people click on the links, malware can be downloaded onto their computers giving thieves access to their sensitive personal information.
The first step to protecting yourself from these scams is to learn how to recognize them. For starters, look closely at the email’s grammar and spelling. Spam emails often contain misspelled words and poor grammar, as well as spoofed logos that are fake upon close inspection.
Also look to see if the sender’s email address matches that of the company’s website that supposedly sent the email. In a recent fake email from FedEx, for example, the sender line read, From: FedEx Express Saver (firstname.lastname@example.org). A close look at the sender line clearly reveals that this email is a fake designed to get victims to click on links that could expose their personal information.
These fake emails also lack specific details about the supposed shipments since the shipments don’t actually exist. And some of them ask recipients to click on links in order to provide personal information (including bank account numbers) to resolve a supposed shipping problem. Do not click on any links like this — just delete the emails.
Some fake emails include threats that a supposed package will be returned to the sender and the person will be charged a fee if they don’t respond and resolve the situation. These are written to try to make people act quickly without thinking things through. Again, don’t click on any links in emails like these, just delete them.
Watch Out for Scrooge!
Unfortunately, there are plenty of Scrooges and Grinches out there who’d like nothing more than to ruin Christmas with their online shopping scams. So be extra vigilant this year to protect yourself and your family from these scams.