This holiday season, don’t be tempted by too-good-to-be-true prices when shopping online. Many of these deals are scams, stealing both money and personal information from victims.
How the Scam Works:
With a long shopping list this holiday season, you are trying to save money by finding good deals online. A web search, social media post, maybe even a fake retail app leads you to a site that appears to sell high-priced items – such as designer clothing or electronics – at a steep discount. The deals are amazing. For example, one scam website offers $400 designer handbags for $49. The website looks real: it has the company logo, photos of products, and even uses the brand name in the URL.
No matter how good the deals seem, don’t fall for it! In the best-case scenario, you will be purchasing counterfeit goods. However, some shopping scam victims report unauthorized charges on their credit cards after purchase. And as always, sharing personal information with scammers opens you up to the risk of identity fraud.
How to Spot a Fake Website
Here's how to spot a fake website:
1. Don't believe what you see: The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate retailer, but that can be easily copied from the real website.
2. Look out for fake contact info: No contact information is a huge red flag and probably means a scam. But some fake websites are crafty. Consumers report calling the toll-free number to confirm the website’s legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the company.
3. Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use one of the new top level domains (brandwebsite.app or brandwebsite.bargain). Not all sites using these new domains are scams, but many are so check them carefully.
4. Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with "HTTPS" and has a lock icon.
5. Watch for “too good to be true” deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere.
For More Information
Read more about safe online shopping on the Federal Trade Commission website (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0020-shopping-online). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).