BBB warns holiday shoppers to watch out for Internet grinches

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Supply shortages are convincing holiday shoppers to start early this year and the Better Business Bureau is urging extra caution when shopping on the web.

The Better Business Bureau is saying, with so many consumers turning to the internet, you are more likely to get scammed if you buy something on the web than any other transaction. And if you do get ripped off it is going to be harder to get your money back.

Internet scams come in all shapes and sizes, employment scams, identity theft, Social Security scams, but now the Better Business Bureau has found the ripoff that is the most prevalent on the web is online purchases.

“It used to be employment scams, but because everybody started shopping online during the pandemic, a lot of retailers were closed, we just saw such a spike in it,” said Melanie McGovern, Better Business Bureau.

Melanie McGovern, of the Better Business Bureau, told us, the BBB’s latest findings, show more than one out of every three Internet scams involves a purchase and it is nearly impossible to get any of your money back.

At the top of the list — pet scams.

“It still is pervasive as it was during the pandemic. People are not doing the research, they are falling in love with a dog they see online and giving money. We just had somebody in the Albany area last month lose $800 in a pet scam,” McGovern said.

McGovern told us a big reason folks are getting ripped off, it can take a long time before they figure out they have been duped. The long shipping delays, especially on the West Coast are actually for real.

“So when they did order a product and it did not come right away, they weren’t necessarily reporting it to us right away but then they realized, wait a minute, I don’t think I am ever going to get this product. So there was like a perfect storm of things going on that led to online purchase scams topping our riskiest scam list,” added McGovern.

McGovern says the safest way to pay is with a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, a prepaid, card or a person-to-person payment app, and do your homework before making that purchase.

“If you have the time to do so, there are websites you can search to see how old a website is, how long it has been around. If it is really new and they seem to have the products that nobody can get, that is a definite red flag that it is a scam,” said McGovern.

The Internet just seems to know all your business, so once you start your search for a product McGovern says you are going to start seeing ads. Her advice, check with the BBB to find out which ads are bogus, and which ones are legit.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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