BBB Says Know the Red Flags When Shopping Online

November 23, 2009
With the holidays approaching, consumers are reminded to be cautious when making online purchases

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina warns online shoppers that some deals online are too good to be true.

Online shopping has made it more convenient for consumers to shop from home for gifts for the holidays in addition to everyday items. Unfortunately, along with the convenience of online shopping comes possible scams and an abundance of businesses to purchase from that may be untrustworthy.

One online store BBB warns consumers about in their November Consumer Alerts is is an online pet supply store claiming to be located at a Raleigh address. The store sells items including cages, cleaning supplies, and toys on their Web site.

BBB started receiving complaints from consumers in December of 2007, but more recently has seen an increase in inquiries and complaints on the company. Since January 2009, BBB has received 204 inquiries on the company from consumers, compared to only 27 inquiries in 2008. BBB has recently received 22 complaints concerning products not being shipped in a reasonable timeframe and communication issues. These complaints are currently pending as the BBB is waiting for the company’s response. BBB has processed a total of 12 complaints in the last four weeks against Eight of these complaints were closed with no response from the company. The complaints came from consumers who ordered their pet supplies online, but never received the order they paid for, or they received broken items. Customers who have tried to reach the company have been unable to contact the business. When BBB called the three phone numbers they have for the business, they reached recordings stating that one number is not accepting calls, one has been disconnected, and the other has a full mailbox.

BBB cautions consumers to exercise caution when considering purchasing items from an unfamiliar store online.

“With, and many other online stores, if a consumer calls BBB before doing business with them, we can let them know about any complaints or provide other details we are aware of to help them make a more informed decision when deciding which site to utilize,” said Beverly Baskin, President & CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina.

If you are not familiar with a particular store you want to purchase from online, BBB recommends that shoppers look for the following red flags:

The prices for items are too good to be true. Everyone is looking for a bargain and scammers use tantalizingly low prices online to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, it’s a sign to walk away.

Spelling and grammatical errors abound. Some phony Web sites are created by scammers overseas. As a result, the Web sites, or spam e-mails directing shoppers to the site, might have many grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. However, if the site is polished and without grammatical error, don’t rely on the professional look of the Web site as proof of a company’s quality or good reputation.

The business accepts payment via wire transfer only. Scammers often ask victims to wire payment through Western Union or MoneyGram because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for items online. If the Web site turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card carrier and hopefully get your money back. It is also a good idea to check your credit card statements often.

The business has earned a rating that does not meet your standards. Always review the business’ reliability report online at to find out what rating it has received from BBB. If you don’t find a BBB Reliability Report®, it doesn’t necessarily mean the business is fraudulent, but it may indicate the business has not been around for long or has yet to develop a track record with consumers.

The Web site fraudulently uses security seals. Scam websites will often display the seals from certification organizations such as VeriSign, IQNet or TRUSTe without authorization or falsely claim to be accredited by BBB. When shopping online you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business’s use of the seal is legitimate. To ensure that your transaction is safe, before you enter your credit card digits, make sure the URL reads ‘https,’ or it has a golden box at the bottom to make sure that the transaction is encrypted and secure.

For more information on how to be a savvy shopper this season, visit

About the BBB serving Eastern North Carolina: The Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501 (c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by membership dues from more than 2,900 local businesses and professional firms. The BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by the BBB include, reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, dispute resolution services, and consumer/business education programs. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit