(WIVB) – The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that as you do more shopping on the internet, it’s critical that you do your homework.
Consumers are doing more shopping from home during the COVID-19 pandemic- but the merchandise they’re looking for is often in short supply.
In desperation, they might turn to little-known websites that they hope are on the up-and-up- but often are not.
The Better Business Bureau has found that a staggering number of shoppers caught up in Internet scams lost money due to neglecting their homework.
Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York said that 81 percent of those who didn’t research the website via an independent source lost money.
The BBB’s research shows that more than six out of ten internet shoppers who got scammed had been actively searching for the merchandise they were trying to buy, which online retailers can readily spot.
“Unfortunately, scammers can target you just as national retailers can,” McGovern said.
She adds that the COVID-19 pandemic is making matters so much worse for unwary shoppers desperately trying to find high-demand goods and services that have been in short supply.
“They wanted hand sanitizer, they wanted puppies, they wanted things for their homes such as pools,” McGovern said. “Those were the types of online purchase scams we saw spiking, especially during the summer.”
What is catching a growing number of consumers is scammers demanding alternative payment methods, and avoiding credit cards, which have built-in protection.
“A lot of people told us they were asked for prepaid debit cards, CashApp, Venmo, PayPal, things like that,” McGovern said.
Bottom line is that people have to look out for themselves, McGovern said.
“It’s always on the consumer to due your due diligence before you make any kind of payment ton somebody,” McGovern said. “A lot of times what we see- especially if you use a debit card, you are authorizing that purpose- is that the bank is not going to give you that money back.”
Those Peer-to-Play apps such as Venmo, Google Pay, and Zelle actually warn consumers to only use them with friends, family, and businesses you know.
If you use PayPal, a merchant account offers more protection than a personal account, which means you’re on your own.