Top 7 Online Shopping Scams Reported by the Better Business Bureau and How to Avoid Them
Being a consumer has never been so easy with everything we want available at the click of a button. However, it is also even easier for us as consumers to be scammed, by merchants and hackers who know we are searching for a great deal or opportunity online. This week in the United States it is National Consumer Protection Week, during which the Better Business Bureau is hoping that we as online consumers will be a little more careful and safer in our viral ventures.
The top 7 online shopping scams
The top 7 scams from 2011 as reported by the BBB include:
- Job Scams
- Viral Video Scams
- Hotel Scams
- Prize Scams
- Home Improvement Scams
- Mortgage Help Scams
- Misleading Auctions
How can we be safe, effective online consumers?
Jobs – Never give your personal data to potential employers over the phone or online without verifying the legitimacy of the company and the individual who works there. If you apply for a job online and you are contacted and asked for things like your Social Security number or bank account in order to perform credit checks (yes – companies do this), don’t be too quick to provide the information. Perform an online search and call the company back. Also be wary of companies that are online offering great salaries for little or no experience.
Viral Videos – If you’re tempted to check out the sensational video that you see posted on everyone’s social media sites, right-click on the link, copy the address, and paste into a new window. Clicking directly on videos can lead you to spamming your own contact lists and social site addresses, as well as giving your computer a nasty virus.
Hotels – If you like to plan your vacations using online reservation tools, be wary if you get a call that your credit card information needs to be verified for your reservation. Don’t give this information over the phone – ever.
Prizes – Anyone reading my junk box would think I am the luckiest girl alive – I think I qualify as a foreign lottery winner each week! If you really win something amazing, you don’t need to send money to a bank account, pay taxes upfront, or supply personal information. Always talk to someone in real time, and wait until you have the real item.
Home Improvement – With spring comes the knocking on doors of salesmen and offers to make your life so much easier. Be careful! The busiest home improvement businesses tend to be the best, and don’t spend time going door to door. If you find someone at your door offering an amazing deal to redo your roof after that spring storm, take the card, the phone number, and a copy of the license number. Then do your homework by checking with the Better Business Bureau, researching online, and asking for references.
Mortgage Assistance – In the current economy there seems to be just as many people offering scams to “help” mortgage owners as there are mortgage owners in need. Online offers and solicitations that promise to give you amazing interest rates and lower payments need a second look. Check for fees required up front or disclosure of personal information – and quickly look the other way. Again – check references before dealing with online mortgage services.
Misleading Auctions – While they might not be scams, when you are doing your online shopping be wary of auctions and their policies. Watch out for low prices with deceptively placed shipping and handling charges that make your bargain purchase null and void. If the price seems too good to be true – buyer beware.
4 Tips to be a smart online consumer
Be a savvy and smart online consumer all of the time, not just during National Consumer Protection Week.
- Verify credentials
- Compare prices at leading vendors
- Look for https// and the padlock symbol that let you know the security of your shopping (instead of just http://)
- Be patient – rarely are good deals always gone
- Search for coupons, group buying coupons, and rebates to get extra back for your buck