GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Holiday shopping has been moving from stores to the internet for years, but in this pandemic year, holiday shopping online is expected to greatly increase. And the Better Business Bureau Serving West Michigan expects the number of shopping scams online to increase as well.
The BBB notes that of complaints in 2020 where people lost money to scams, fully 64% of them were online. Compare that to 2015, where losses attributed to online scams amounted to just 15% of complaints.
Consumer complaints range from failure to deliver purchases in a timely manner to bogus charities.
Pointing to three important shopping and giving periods, the BBBSWM has these recommendations:
Black Friday, Nov. 27
- Offers that are too good to be true. Know what different stores and websites are charging to give yourself a good idea of a price that is too good to be genuine.
- Shop sources you trust. If you don’t know a source, research it before you buy.
- Know the return policy. It can be a red flag when policies are unclear. How long do you have? (Grace periods usually begin from the purchase date and not the day you give the gift.) Receipt required? Original packaging?
Cyber Monday, Nov. 30
- Beware of offers on social media. They can be hard to resist, but many complaints are from consumers who bought through social media and got nothing.
- Research websites. Check reviews, especially of vendors you aren’t familiar with. If info on a site is thin, there’s little reason to trust it.
- Avoid sketchy sites by only shopping sources you know and trust.
- Pay with a credit card, which gives you protections when a transaction goes wrong. Red flag: the site requires you use a gift card or debit card.
- Double-check delivery times and return policies. With the pandemic, shipping takes longer. Make sure you know how long delivery will take and how to return an item.
Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1
- Plan ahead to contribute to a charity you like. Don't wait for someone to contact you.
- Research the charity if you don’t know it. Give.org is a good source of information.
- The best way to learn how your contribution will be used is to contact the charity directly.
- Don’t give in to pressure. Avoid contributing on the phone. Legitimate charities are willing to wait for you to be sure about your contribution.