MISSOULA — It wouldn’t be the holiday season without scammers and with supply shortages this year, it has become more important to do your research before purchasing items—especially online.
“So whenever we shop with our heart versus our head, we have a higher risk of being scammed,” said Better Business Bureau (BBB) spokeswoman Roseann Freitas.
The BBB found online purchases to be the number one source of fraudulent activity this year. And in Montana, online scams make up 46% of reported scams. The BBB has some general guidelines to follow when shopping online.
For one, look at the website's address, or url. If it starts with “https” it is a secure site; the “s” stands for secure. Also, look for grammar mistakes and see if there is contact information on the site. A phone number, address, or other verifiable information can show it is a legitimate business.
“One thing I always tell people to do as well is the name of that company, put it into your Google search and put the word 'scam' behind it,” said Freitas.
Another platform we have to be careful shopping on this year is social media.
“Two things, they can send you to a fake website that looks exactly the same, but also can download malware onto your system," said Freitas. "So be careful on social media. You may have these great ideas, but open your browser and go directly to that company for that search.”
Two things typically happen when we get scammed online: the package doesn’t show up at all, or people pay a premium price for a below-quality item. Freitas has one tip that might save us from being scammed if we miss the signs.
“But too, if they pay for it with their credit card, which when you're shopping online, you should always use a credit card," said Freitas. "You can actually dispute the charge.”
This season, be careful buying those popular items. If you can find it online and everyone else is having a hard time tracking it down, Freitas says that is a red flag.
You can always go to bbb.org to find a list of known scammers.