Investigators: Ways to avoid holiday shopping scams during the holiday season

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 9:51 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Just in time for the holiday shopping season is a warning about online shopping scams.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of the Mid-South reports a serious spike in these crimes.

”I mean, the doll looked so life-like. I was like why are you sending me a picture of somebody’s baby? She said no dad, it’s a doll,” said Derrick Lee.

When Lee’s daughter, Ja’Kayla, asked for one of those life-like baby dolls for Christmas, he immediately went online, Googled, and ordered it for her. But Lee says that cute, realistic-looking doll never materialized in real life.

”Ask a dad about the bond with your daughters. It’s a special bond, you know? It kind of hurt my feelings because I feel like I let her down. She was like dad it’s ok, it’s just a doll. And I was like, no, I know you wanted that doll,” Lee said.

”We’re seeing a huge uptick in scam reports,” said Daniel Irwin with the BBB of the Mid-South.

Lee is among a growing number of online shopping scam victims.

In 2019, the Memphis BBB received 49 reports about the crime. Victims were out just over $11,000. In 2020, 139 reports came into the BBB with victims losing more than $50,000.

So far this year, there have been 152 reports with losses already top $100,000.

”And this is before the holiday rush, so expect that number to increase significantly,” said Irwin.

Here’s how to spot red flags when shopping online:

  • Check the URL. Scammers will mimic well-known brands or companies, but if you look closely, you can usually detect an incorrect character.
  • Watch for bad grammar called Scammer Grammar.
  • Typos or broken English are dead giveaways.
  • Search for contact information on the website.
  • If there’s no way to get in touch with the business, beware.
  • Make sure the site is secure by looking for the small lock icon on the URL.

”Looks like a padlock, and if there’s not a padlock, or it’s not locked, then that means it’s not a secure site and you should not enter payment information,” Irwin warned.

When you do go to pay for your items, the BBB says you should always use a credit card. Avoid paying with a gift card, Zelle or wire transfer.

Another tip is to never click on links to shopping websites while you’re on social media.

”One of the main ways you get hooked up to these websites is by clicking on links on Facebook,” Irwin said.

Think twice if a website offers a hard-to-find product a a too-good-to-be true price. The website could be fake and the product could be counterfeit.

Lee filed a report on the BBB’s Scam Tracker website. His daughter, Ja’Kayla, got a hoverboard instead of that doll.

Lee got a lesson on how to be a much smarter online shopper.

”Because you want to trust what you’re buying online is going to come to you, and your money’s going to be safe, and you’re going to get your delivery on time,” Lee said.

As always, if you have a question about a website, the BBB says give them a call. They’ll check it out for you. The number is 901-759-1300.

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