BBB tips on avoiding scams this holiday season

With the surge in holiday shopping, scammers are looking for an easy target. It’s why the Better Business Bureau is offering tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

Steve Bernace, the BBB’s president and CEO, isn’t talking about the crowds at the mall – or the pop ads online. Bernace is, however, talking about shopping and thieves who are scoring their own deals.

“This is my 34th year at the Better Business Bureau. I have never seen it so bad right now,” Bernace said. “They are coming at them with everything at people. Every day, there’s a new twist to a different scam. That’s why consumers need to be educated.”

Scammers know there’s a pent-up demand emerging from the pandemic.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales could grow as much as 10.5{ac23b82de22bd478cde2a3afa9e55fd5f696f5668b46466ac4c8be2ee1b69550} to $850 billion over last year. A big chunk of that, purchased online, which is convenient but poses risks.

Online fraud was the number one complaint to the Better Business Bureau in 2020.

If you want to protect yourself, look closely at the URL. But, here’s a big ‘don’t,’ says Bernace.

“Don’t follow a link. Go directly to the site itself. Go through Google, don’t follow a link. It’s really zero trust with those links,” Bernace said. “A lot of the scams are on Facebook and other social media sites where those ads pop up because they watch you, they’re big brother, they know what you’re looking at.”

Bernace says a “do” is to look for the online retailer’s information before making a purchase.

“Make sure they have a phone number or a physical address, that they answer the phone because, as I mentioned, you can’t tell if it’s a scam website or a real website,” Bernace said.

Sometimes, a big clue can be a price consumers know is too good to be true in their hearts. But, of course, that goes for all kinds of shopping.

“Obviously, know the price of the product you’re going to buy. Everybody has these doorbuster sales, whether online or offline, because guess what? In the next week, at the Better Business Bureau, we get consumers who say it wasn’t a doorbuster, the cheapest I could have gotten it.” Bernace said.

To avoid overpaying or getting something you didn’t want, Bernace says, prepare.

“Do the education upfront. Know the prices, track the prices,” Bernace said. “Don’t just go to a store and see doorbusters and believe them without having some research, because those doorbusters are to get you into the store and, ‘guess what? Oh, we don’t have that anymore, but we have a whole selection,’ so that’s where consumers fall into a trap.”

And if you’re at a loss, you can try this trusted website:

“It’s so simple. There’s so much information out there,” Bernace said. “Check with the Better Business Bureau. We can find businesses you can trust on our site and you can find the bad actors as well.”