SAN ANTONIO — Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports show online purchases schemes affect the largest number of people. That includes Texans.
Texans lost a whopping $2 million last year in online shopping schemes said the BBB. The BBB said losses come by ordering something and never getting it or buying an item and getting something very different from what you ordered. This includes large purchases like cars bought online, small items, and an online fraudster favorite, pet schemes, which accounts for 50 percent of the money lost. Online shoppers lose an average of about $480. Many of these shopping schemes start on social media.
“We end up going to Facebook, Craigslist, or other open platforms to find a deal or to find something that’s run out, maybe an item that’s been sold out of stores or regular retailers,” said Jason Meza of the San Antonio BBB. “We kind of go the back route. We try to find a dealer, either local or regional, try to find a deal, and end up going down a dark path. Many times it ends up being a seller that’s fraudulent or a situation where they’re not going to deliver the goods or service.”
Here is how to save yourself money and a headache when you shop online:
Check out online companies before you buy. An easy way do this is to Google the company name and the word “complaint.”
“We really want you to do research on a seller,” Meza said. “Misspellings, poor grammar, punctuation issues, I think that’s probably the biggest red flag for buyers is to look for those things. Those are giveaways that could be a website that’s set up by someone not in the country.”
Check to see if the company has a physical address and phone number in the U.S.
Look at the shipping and refund policy.
Use a credit card. It offers the most consumer protections and allows you to dispute the charges.
“Debit cards are linked to bank accounts,” Meza said. “Financial assistance is a little bit more of an uphill battle to prove fraud exists. So save everything: receipts, email screenshots, anything you can use to prove that you know there was a fraudulent transaction.”
Never pay by gift cards, cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer money apps, or wire transfers. That money cannot be returned.
If you are a victim of an online shopping scheme, report it to the police, the BBB, the FTC.