BBB warning of online shopping scams this holiday season

Online shopping scams reached record highs last year, and are on track to match or surpass this year

The Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers of the risk of online shopping scams as the busy holiday shopping season gets underway. (Courtesy of Better Business Bureau)

As the busy holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, the Better Business Bureau is warning shoppers to be vigilant for scams and fraud, especially when shopping online.

Online shopping scams remain one of the most reported scams experienced by Canadian shoppers, and the reported losses so far in 2022 remain just below the all-time highs reached in 2021.

According to the BBB, between January and September this year, nearly $4 million in losses from online scams were reported to the organization, compared to nearly $8 million reported from January to December 2021. The organization said the number of reported scams this year appears to be on pace to meet or exceed the number of complaints made last year.

Since the BBB Scam Tracker launched in 2015, the number of online scams being reported has risen 87 per cent, according to a news release. Nearly 36 per cent of those reported scams originated from a fake website, while 40 per cent of them originated from social media or email.

READ MORE: Online purchases, dicey cryptocurrency schemes top Better Business Bureau’s riskiest scams

“If your gut is telling you that a deal is too good to be true, it probably is,” said Rosalind Scott, president and CEO of BBB serving Vancouver Island. “In many cases reported to BBB’s Scam Tracker, scammers tempt shoppers with hard-to-find items, low prices, and fast or free delivery. We encourage consumers to educate themselves and watch for red flags.”

Common warning signs of an online scam shoppers should be on the lookout for include prices that seem too good to be true, websites that look legitimate, but start to look suspicious on a closer look, and credit card payment failures, which are followed by the seller asking for payment over a peer-to-peer payment app or by gift card.

Scammers are known to target shoppers before a purchase is made through advertisements on social media, while shopping with unrealistic prices and fake websites, and after the purchase with fake tracking information or requests for extra money to ensure “safe delivery.”

Before making a purchase online, the BBB recommends shoppers check the business and website on BBB.org or other review sources for customer reviews, check the website URL and information for spelling errors, use a map service to verify the business’s address is accurate, pay by credit card as it offers the most protection, and to treat any advertisement, especially on social media, with suspicion until you have been able to investigate the company behind the ad.

Anyone who believes they have fallen victim to a scam should report it to the BBB Scam Tracker, the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre, and your credit card issuer.

READ MORE: B.C. man owing $7.6M in fraud fines could have driver’s licence pulled: Securities commission


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