As students prepare for the upcoming school year, supply shortages may limit the options available to shoppers – and make them more vulnerable to scams when shopping online.
“Last year, nearly one-third of scams reported by Canadians to BBB [Better Business Bureau] Scam Tracker were about online purchase scams, with a little over 73% of those targeted losing money,” said Simone Lis, president and chief executive officer of BBB, serving Mainland British Columbia.
Online purchase scams often start when scammers target shoppers with phony deals, enticing ads and attractive but fake websites. Once an order is placed, victims find they receive nothing or the items they do receive are counterfeit or inferior to what the ads promised.
To ensure you have a pleasant back-to-school shopping experience, BBB advises shoppers to keep the following tips in mind when shopping for supplies:
Shop with familiar retailers. Shop with businesses you know and trust to ensure you’re getting a quality product and good customer service.
Know what you’re shopping for. Set a budget, identify what tech (or other) capabilities will benefit your student and compare your options. Then, shop around for a reliable seller.
Avoid making quick purchases while browsing social media. Scammers advertise websites that offer great deals or hard-to-find products, but either don’t deliver the product at all or deliver counterfeit products. Do more research on those products by doing an online search for more information and reviews.
Don’t buy from impostors. Fraudsters may use the name, logo and other characteristics of brands you trust. Closely examine the website to verify that they are who they say they are. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar.
Pay by credit card. Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods. Never use debit cards for online purchases.
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.
Approach “too good to be true prices” with caution. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Research the website before making a purchase. Some fake companies may copy the BBB seal to legitimize themselves. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile. And do an internet search with the company name and the words “complaint,” “scam” and “review.” This may locate other complaints about the site or let you know if they are legitimate or not.
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.
Verify customer reviews. Scammers frequently post positive reviews on their websites, either copied from honest sites or created by scammers (fake profiles, bots, etc.). Look at the bad reviews first, as these are more likely to be real and can help identify scams.
If you think you’ve encountered an online shopping scam, be sure to report it to the right place and protect other unsuspecting consumers:
- file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org or bbb.org/scamtracker,
- file a report at Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or 1-888-495-8501,
- report ads that violate standards, copyright or other policies to the correct source such as Facebook (facebook.com/business/help), Instagram (help.instagram.com) or Amazon, and
- call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report a fraud and request your money back.
– Courtesy Better Business Bureau