Tips to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

While many online sellers are legitimate businesses, unfortunately scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. At First Commerce, we believe in empowering you with tools and information to help you protect your financial information.

Online purchases are among the most common scam type reported to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), accounting for 38 percent of complaints to the BBB's Scam Tracker in the first seven months of 2020 — up from 24 percent in 2019. Online shopping scams involve criminals pretending to be legitimate sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site. Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a familiar-looking web address. To protect yourself, try taking these precautions for safer, hassle-free online shopping. 

  • Know who you’re dealing with by carefully reviewing the seller’s contact information and product descriptions. Fraudulent websites often offer luxury items such as popular clothing brands, jewelry and electronics at very low prices. Sometimes you receive the item you paid for, but it’s a knock-off version. Other times, you pay and never receive the item(s) at all. 

  • Know what it will cost by comparing product prices to other websites and factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. The biggest alert that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers may ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer. However, if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item. Never send cash or give your credit card or account details to anyone you don’t know.

  • Determine if the website has a refund or returns policy, and decide if their policies sound fair. Most reputable online shopping sites have detailed complaint or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong.

  • Never use free wi-fi when shopping online. Hackers love free wi-fi that doesn’t require a password because data is not protected, making it easier to steal your personal information. 

Identity theft and consumer fraud can happen to anyone at any time. It’s important to learn how to protect your identity and what steps to take if your personal information is stolen. Learn how to stay protected with free financial education from the FCCU Foundation and our partner EverFi!

Insured by NCUA. First Commerce does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. The information on this page is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your tax, legal or accounting advisors for further guidance.