Holiday Shopping Warning: Beware of online purchase scams

The BBB is warning shoppers amid an increase in online purchase scams.
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 7:24 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching and many will be shopping online this year.

With supply chain issues and shortages, experts say scammers will take advantage. The Better Business Bureau is warning about online purchase scams.

According to a new report, online purchase scams now account for more than a third of all scams reported to the BBB.

The BBB tracks scams through its Scam Tracker. Data compiled from 2015 to 2021 found that four out of five consumers who report an online scam, loses money.

More than 55,000 online purchase scams have been reported to the BBB since 2015.

Consumers complained about losing money after purchasing a product online and later finding out that the website or company was not legitimate.

BBB Wisconsin officials say scammers are getting better at tricking people online and anyone can be at risk.

“Usually we think about older people losing money. In this case the 18 to 24 year-old age group is the group being targeted in these online purchase scams and they’re losing an average of $125 per report which is staggering and those numbers are continuing to climb,” said Tiffany Bernhardt Schultz, BBB Wisconsin Southwest Regional Director.

A woman from the Town of Sun Prairie recently lost money to online scammers.

Gena Goldade says she used to work in IT and for Wisconsin’s consumer protection agency. She says even with that knowledge, she found that online scammers are staying a step ahead.

“It’s hard to keep up with what’s legitimate and what’s a scam,” said Goldade who lost nearly $60 when she ordered a set of food storage containers from a website she found while scrolling Facebook.

She says the company was called Food Bunker and the website looked real. She received a confirmation email after purchasing but weeks went by and she never got her order. She made multiple attempts to reach the company but was unable to and never got her money back.

Goldade filed a report with the BBB and found that Food Bunker has a history of disappointing consumers. The BBB has 72 complaints on file for Food Bunker. Schultz says Goldade’s story is just one of many related to an uptick in online scams. A lot of consumers are being targeted through social media ads.

“More than 35% of the reports in the BBB Scam Tracker were related to online purchase scams and 75% of those targets have lost money,” said Schultz.

Ahead of the holiday shopping season, consumers are warned to be cautious. If you come across a website you are not familiar with, don’t immediately assume it’s a scam. It could be a small business or new business that is trying to make sales online during the pandemic. It also could be fake.

Take the time to do some research before making a decision. Check the BBB for information on the company and do a quick online search to see what other sites are found when the company name is typed in a search engine. Use the information you find to make an informed decision.

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