As merchants begin rolling out deals for the holidays, it's common to see scammers exploit the surge in online purchasing to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Using methods like spoof websites, fake deals, and e-skimming, these scammers have adopted several techniques to steal money, credit card numbers, and personally identifiable information (PII).
As this can be a stressful time of year, we want to share a few tips and tricks that will help keep you safe when making your holiday shopping online this season.
Before Making A Purchase
- If the deal seems too good to be true or if you haven’t heard of a merchant before or found their website from an online ad (a popular method scammers use), do some additional due diligence.
- Research the website.
- If the merchant doesn't have much of an online footprint, this could be a red flag.
- Check the year the website was created. You can find this information via an internet search, or typically at the bottom of the website’s page. If it’s a fairly recent website, this could be a red flag.
- You can also check for scam reports against the merchant by conducting an internet search for “Merchant name/website” + “scam”. See what appears.
- Are there any inactive hyperlinks or “dead links” to other pages (either internal or external) or social media? If yes, this could be a red flag.
- Are any of the images used on the site indicated to be stock photos? Look for watermarks. If yes, this could be a red flag.
- If the website appears to be a well known merchant, research the URL to make sure it is not a scam site posing as the real merchant. Often, scam sites will use URLs similar to the URL of the legitimate merchant, but with misspellings or slight variances.
- Take a screenshot of the order confirmation as soon as it’s received, in case it needs to be referenced later.
- If purchasing health and wellness items, particularly if COVID related, consider resources such as COVID-19 News from the FBI for added due diligence.
After Making A Purchase
- Be wary if you do not receive an order confirmation or if you do, it’s from an email that doesn’t end with @storename.com. Many common scams have emails from @outlook.com and @gmail.com. International scams are also known to use @customercarefor.com and @servicecentervip.com, among a few others that are not associated with a legitimate retailer’s website or listed on their “Contact Us” section.
- Double check where the order is being shipped. If the website says the store is based in the US or in Europe, or that delivery will be completed within 7-10 business days but the tracking number received shows the shipment is coming from elsewhere, this may be a red flag.
- If the tracking status says the shipment has been delivered, but you didn’t receive the order, chances are the merchant had sent an item “Not As Described,” just to obtain a tracking number to prove delivery.
- A few days after the purchase has been made, double check the website. If the merchant’s website is no longer accessible, this is most likely a scam.
- In cases where you’ve let the merchant know that you were sent the wrong item and the merchant offers you a partial refund or a replacement instead of a return shipping label, do not continue to negotiate a refund. This is typically a technique to prolong the negotiation/waiting process, so by the time you try to initiate a dispute with the bank, the transaction is already outside of the dispute window.
If you are a Privacy user and think that you may have been the victim of a holiday shopping scam, you can file a dispute. Here are some tips on how to do this
- If you are unsure if a website is legitimate, take a screenshot of the initial payment confirmation notice after the checkout process. Some merchants refuse to send any order confirmation email so the merchant can send an item “Not As Described.” Having the ability to say, “The item the merchant claimed to have delivered was not the item I purchased from them” can greatly strengthen a dispute case.
- Consistently check on your order status and the website. The moment you are no longer able to view the website, visit the Privacy dashboard and file a dispute.
- Save all correspondence you have with the merchant.
We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season! Should you have any questions, feel free to contact our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.