BBB warning local holiday shoppers to beware internet grinches

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Supply shortages are leading holiday shoppers to start early this year, but the Better Business Bureau urges extra caution when shopping online. With so many digital consumers, they scammed via the web are more likely than through any other transaction, and it’s harder to get your money back.

Internet rip-offs come in all shapes and sizes—employment, identity, romance, and Social Security—”but because everybody started shopping online during the pandemic, a lot of retailers were closed, we just saw such a spike in it,” said BBB representative Melanie McGovern.

McGovern said the BBB’s latest findings show more than one-third of internet scams involve purchases with impossible refunds, and that pet scams top the list. “It still is pervasive as it was during the pandemic,” she said. “People are not doing the research. They are falling in love with a dog they see online and giving money. We just had somebody in the Albany area last month lose $800 in a pet scam.”

McGovern said it can take a long time before marks figure out they’ve been conned. The long shipping delays, especially on the West Coast, are actually real. “When they did order a product and it did not come right away, they weren’t necessarily reporting it to us right away,” McGovern said. “Then they realized, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t think I am ever going to get this product!’ So there was like a perfect storm of things going on that led to online purchase scams topping our riskiest scam list.”

McGovern said the safest way to pay is with a credit card, as opposed to a debit or prepaid card or a person-to-person payment app, and do your homework before making that purchase. “There are websites you can search to see how old a website is, how long it has been around,” said McGovern. “If it is really new and they seem to have the products that nobody can get, that is a definite red flag that it is a scam.”

The internet knows all your business, so once you start your search for a product, McGovern said you are going to start seeing ads. Her advice is to check with the BBB to find out which ads are bogus or legit.

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