Other Opinion: Another reason to shop local


Here’s another reason to shop local: Some of those “convenient” online shopping offers may be nothing more than a con.

According to new research by the Better Business Bureau, scams related to online purchases, already on the rise in 2019, spiked further following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A staggering 80.5% of consumers reporting online purchase scams this year lost money, the agency reported. That figure has been creeping up from 71.2% in 2015, when the bureau began collecting this data.

With the coronavirus pandemic expected to continue for the foreseeable future and more people potentially being targeted by online scams, the bureau launched a new study to better understand how online purchase scams happen, who is targeted, the overall impact of them and how the bureau can help people avoid losing money while shopping online.

The top reason people lost money to this type of scam was the enticement of a sales price. Scammers offered high demand products at a significantly reduced dollar amount, which then increased the desire to purchase the item, the bureau said.


Following the coronavirus outbreak, the second biggest motivating factor to search and purchase items online was availability, according to the bureau.

Early in the pandemic, supplies such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, cleaning products, and masks were in short supply. According to the survey, more than half – 53% – of the respondents said they weren’t aware they were a target of a scam until they didn’t receive the product they ordered.

Consumers who lost money to online purchase scams reported the following platforms as the place where they saw the product: Facebook, Google, a direct merchant website, Instagram, or pop up ads on social media when they were actively shopping.

Who is most at for online purchase scams? The report said individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 were more susceptible and likely to be victimized, while younger consumers are more susceptible than older adults.

However, older adults tend to lose more money than younger adults for online purchase scams. This falls in line with findings across all scam types. In addition, service members, military spouses, and veterans were more likely to fall victim than non-military consumers, and reported losing significantly more money to online purchase scams.

Online purchase scams typically involve the purchase of products and/or services where the transaction occurs via a website or other online means, the bureau explained. Scammers use online technology to offer attractive deals, but once the payment is made no product or service is delivered.

In another version, fraudsters pretend to purchase an item only to send a fake check and ask for a refund of the “accidental” overpayment. But by the time the victim realizes the check is bad, they’ve already sent the funds from their account.

To avoid becoming a victim to an online scam, follow this three-pronged advice from the bureau:


  • If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and then lost money was price. Don’t shop on price alone.

  • Before you buy, do your research. Out of the 57% who did not research the website or business via an independent source before making a purchase, 81% lost money.

  • Beware of fake websites. Check the URL for errors/inconsistencies. Watch for bad grammar. Beware of new domain names. Search for accessible contact information. Read online reviews about the company and/or website.

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