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Metro Atlanta BBB Warns Holiday Shoppers Against Online Purchase Scams

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Product and labor shortages are driving more consumers to shop online for the holidays. It’s why the Better Business Bureau is predicting more online purchase scams. They shared a few tips to make sure you “Shop Safe and Shop Smart.”

Many Metro Atlanta shoppers are hitting the stores for some early Christmas shopping. Yet, millions of consumers are making their holiday purchases online.

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“I’m leery about doing it. If I cannot go to the store to pick it up, then I don’t want to do it,” said Katrina Kenney, a Fulton County resident.

“If I do, it’s a reputable service, maybe Home Depot or something of that nature. I will order it, and I will go to the store and pick it up,” said Rosa Cantrell, who lives in DeKalb County.

“Just make sure you’ve got a pretty safe site if you’re gonna do any online shopping,” said Cobb County resident Floyd Johnson.

Supply chain issues and product and labor shortages are causing more people to shop online. As a result, the BBB is expecting more online purchase scams.

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“Scammers have tools to actually trace and follow exactly what you’re looking for,” said Simone Williams, a spokesperson for the BBB of Metro Atlanta, Athens and NE Georgia.

A BBB report shows online purchase scams made up more than 40% of all scams in 2020. The bureau shared several tops to help consumers avoid these scenarios.

“They need to research before they buy. We encourage consumers to go to BBB.org and look at the shopper reviews to do your homework before buying something online,” said Williams.

If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, instead of using online gift cards and digital apps, they recommend using credit cards.

“When a consumer uses a credit card, they can actually dispute that transaction if they didn’t receive the product,” Williams said, adding consumers should watch out for fake websites and shipment tracking information. “Go to the shipper’s actual website, and then type in the code to see if it’s real.”

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Here’s a full list of BBB tips to “Shop Safe, Shop Smart” this holiday season:

  • Research before you buy. Use BBB.org and shopper reviews to do your homework before paying. Also, read our tips for spotting phony reviews.
  • If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase then lost money was the price. Don’t shop on price alone.
  • Beware of fake websites. Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, and search for contact information. See BBB’s tips for identifying a fake website.
  • Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Respondents reported that website photos motivated them to engage with scammers, especially for pets/pet supplies, clothing/accessories, and vehicles.
  • Make sure the website is secure. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “http” – it is NOT secure.
  • Be careful purchasing sought-after products, especially during the holiday season. The risk of online purchase scams rises during the holidays because more people make online purchases, and scammers offer the most popular products for the season at great prices.
  • Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering exactly what you want at enticingly low prices.
  • Look for the BBB seal. BBB Accredited Businesses pledge to uphold the BBB Standards for Trust and to deal fairly with consumers. If a business displays a BBB seal, verify it by going to BBB.org.
  • Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. According to BBB’s research, those who paid with a credit card were less likely to lose money. Be cautious when paying by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards, or other non-traditional payment methods. Learn more about payment types and how to use each safely.
  • Shipment tracking information can be faked. Look closely to make sure it is a legitimate business. Avoid clicking on the tracking link; go to the ‘shipper’s website and type in the code to see if it is real.
  • Count on BBB to help you “Shop Safe, Shop Smart.” More tips are available at BBB.org/holiday-tips.
  • Report unsatisfactory purchase experiences to BBB. If you are unhappy with a purchase, file a complaint at BBB.org/complaints. If you never got what you paid for, consider reporting it to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) to help other consumers avoid being scammed.
    Read more BBB holiday tips.
  • Only make purchases from businesses that adhere to the BBB Standards for Trust. Read more about BBB’s Accreditation Standards.
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