BBB: Stay alert when shopping online

Posted at 9:37 AM, Jan 15, 2019

Online shopping continues to be a popular way to make a purchase these days. Unfortunately, it can also prove troublesome.

Last year, BBB Scam Tracker reported more than 10,000 online shopping scams. That is more than double the reported number in 2017.

In Texas last month, there were more than 70 reported cases around the holiday shopping season, with individuals losing anywhere from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. Online purchases that resulted in these scam reports included vehicles, clothing — even puppies.

The scam typically starts as either a sponsored online advertisement on social media, an email solicitation or a post on a classified site.

Once you click through to a website, you are often enticed with flashy pictures or language encouraging you to buy now at a low price so that you do not miss out on the deal. In some cases, you must engage directly with an individual and provide payment through wire transfer. Once payment is made, the communication typically stops and then it becomes difficult to contact the seller and get your money back.

When it comes to avoiding an online purchase scam, the BBB advises that you:

  • KNOW THE ADVERTISER — Fake sites can easily be created to mimic websites of famous retailers. You should always make sure you check the URL to ensure you’re on the right website. It’s also important to cross check language on the site through an online search, along with doing a reverse image search to see if the same picture is being used on multiple websites.
  • BEWARE OF PHISHING — These are email that can look like a message from a well-known brand, but clicking unfamiliar links can place you at risk for identity theft. It’s important to make sure you hover over the link first to ensure that link is going to a destination with which you are familiar.
  • UPDATE ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE —  Make sure you have the latest anti-virus software updated on your desktop system, and your phone has the latest security updates.

As always, before buying anything online it is important to remember to:

  • USE SECURE SITES — These are sites that have ‘https’ where ‘s’ stands for secure, and sites that typically have the lock icon.
  • UNDERSTAND THE TERMS — Read the terms and conditions (usually in smaller print), along with the return policy beforehand to know what you are getting. Also, read the site’s privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used.
  • PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD — This will offer additional protections. With wire transfer and other forms of payment, as it might be more difficult to get your money back if there is an issue.
  • KEEP DOCUMENTATION — Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied with the product or service.

Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at or call (361) 852-4991.