The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are now behind us, and if you’re still in a crunch when it comes to buying Christmas presents, you’re not alone.
With just a couple of weeks to go before Christmas, it’s easy to feel the squeeze and pressure of the whole last-minute shopping bonanza and to take the easier route into online shopping, which means that now is as important a time as ever to be cognizant of online shopping deals.
The whole idea of “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. In 2018, online purchasing was the most common scam type reported to the Better Business Bureau, representing one in five complaints, as well as the one that most often led to financial loss. Sometimes the purchased item never shows up or, if it does, looks nothing like it did in pictures.
If you’ve ever been a victim of any of this, you are not alone. But to avoid it happening again, or for the first time, the Federal Bureau of Investigations offers consumers these tips and signs to look for:
• Always get a tracking number for items purchased online. This number allows you to make sure the item has shipped, and you can follow its progress through the delivery process.
• Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country for business, family emergency or any other reason.
• Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask that payment be sent to someone else.
• Consider canceling your purchase if the seller requests that funds be wired directly to them via a money transfer, pre-paid card or bank-to-bank transaction. A credit card is generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase, as money sent in other ways is virtually impossible to recover.
• Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such dealers.
• Verify the legitimacy of the seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using a website, check their feedback rating and be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback or no rating at all.
• Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs and taxes inside another country.
• Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder doesn’t match the shipping address.
If you do become the victim of a holiday scam, contact your bank immediately. You should also inform your local law enforcement agency, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
One more way to avoid becoming a victim of these scams? Shop local. Your local businesses may not always have exactly what you’re looking for, but if they do, it’s worth it to stay in your community, while simultaneously supporting it.