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Schemers target shoppers with sights set on high-demand items

The Better Business Bureau offered a number of tips to avoid being victimized.

SAN ANTONIO — Cyber Monday is all about getting the best deal, but for some schemers it’s an opportunity to take advantage of shoppers whose sights are set on high-demand items.

From the PlayStation 5 to the Nintendo Switch, the Better Business Bureau said fraudsters prey on people looking for in-demand items that are at a deep discount or available at a normal price despite rabid demand.

“You may be searching for that hard to find gift, that item — you may end up finding them on websites that are unsecured, unknown or seem very basic, promoting these offers,” said BBB regional director Jason Meza. “They're scam sites designed to capture your payment. They emerge and they disappear just as quickly.”

Meza said just as online business transactions have increased amid the pandemic, so too has the average dollar amount people lose to schemers in fraudulent online purchases.

"The hot in demand toys or items —  the PS5s or PlayStation, the Nintendo Switches, they're all hot items,” Meza said. "Consumer appetite is huge right now. We find that social media is where a lot of people search. They start the process. They even buy, sometimes lose, from a counterfeit or fraud.”

Meza said the number of reported schemes is expected to rise due to holiday shopping, but had tips for those seeking to avoid being victimized:

  1. Take time to research the company and website from which you are purchasing.
  2. Look into whether the website states a real, physical address and whether the site has a privacy policy. 
  3. Don’t buy from vendors who do not accept credit card. Always pay with a credit card, as the card affords better protection from schemers.
  4. Look at the website URL to ensure you are not on a copied page.
  5. Avoid social media and e-mail ads that advertise “must-have” products.

Data shows the National Retail Federation expects shoppers to spend approximately $1,000 on food, gifts, decorations and other items this holiday season.