Online shopping

BBB: Online shopping scams flourish on social networks during the pandemic | News

A shift to online shopping during COVID-19, the global supply chain crisis and a booming economy have all created a recipe for a frantic holiday shopping season – a season where online shopping fraud line poses a huge risk to consumers. Online shopping scams have exploded during the pandemic, and social media ads play a key role in the proliferation problem; according to a new study by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The in-depth study — Mass Theft: Online Shopping Fraud and the Role of Social Media – finds that the pandemic, along with lax social commerce shopping platforms, has opened the door for scammers in China to steal from desperate online shoppers. Read the full study at

Online shopping fraud has been on the rise for several years, but according to BBB research, it has increased significantly during the pandemic as more and more people have shopped online. A BBB survey found that 29% of people were shopping online before COVID, and that figure rose to 37% by the end of 2020. In turn, BBB Scam Tracker reports that online shopping scams have nearly doubled by 2019 to 2020, and the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust named online shopping scams the riskiest scam of 2020, releasing special reports on this growing fraud in 2020 and 2021. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding online shopping more than doubled in 2020 and continues to increase throughout 2021. Also, online shopping has more BBB “F” rated businesses than any other type of business.

Most of the online fraud reports reviewed involve responding to online advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. After placing an order, victims report receiving nothing or receiving counterfeit or less than advertised items. Scammers often take product photos or a landing page of legitimate businesses, post them to Facebook and Instagram, and take online orders on the websites they create. This leads to complaints against legitimate businesses, as victims often don’t realize they lost their money to a scammer rather than the business the scammer was describing.

Counterfeit and pirated products, subject of a BBB 2019 investigative study, are rampant in online shopping scams. Other online fraud reports include sites selling non-existent pets, vehicle shipping programs vehicle dispatch programs and misleading free trial offers.

A large number of online shopping complaints registered with BBB and reported to BBB Scam Tracker can be traced to Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram.

BBB found that it was common for people who were not actively researching a product, but losing money in the transaction, to start with Facebook or Instagram 70% of the time. Fraudsters understand how Facebook targets buyers and have developed strategies to reach those who may be interested in purchasing their fake products. Many victims and legitimate businesses believe that Facebook and Instagram should do more to prevent this widespread fraud. A recent federal class action lawsuit trial against Facebook alleges that it is complicit in fraudulent sales and does not follow its own policies to deal with them.

Although credit cards are still the most common method of payment in online scams, online scammers are increasingly asking for payment through PayPal. Credit cards and PayPal offer a degree of buyer protection by allowing buyers to dispute charges, although scam victims have reported difficulty obtaining refunds through PayPal. Additionally, scammers employ a variety of tactics to circumvent the dispute process, including charging exorbitant shipping charges to return items for a refund, providing false shipping tracking numbers, and delaying the process to run out of time for a refund. complaint.

Online shopping scams come from a variety of actors. Counterfeit product operations and those selling products online that don’t deliver or send items significantly different than what was described have been traced to organized, China-based companies or gangs. While the Chinese government has blocked its people from using Facebook’s social media platform in China, companies there traffic in fake products and spend billions advertising on the site. Pet scams are mostly operated by gangs in Cameroon. The vehicle scams have been traced to gangs from Romania and the free trial offer scams have been found to be primarily carried out by people in the United States and Canada.

Law enforcement actions have been mostly limited to scammers and their accomplices operating in the United States and Canada. In 2020, US Customs seized $1.3 billion in counterfeit goods, arrested 203 people and secured 98 convictions.

Tips to avoid online shopping scams:

• Check the website before making a purchase:To verify to check a company’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Some scammers may copy the BBB seal. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB can often tell you how long a website has been in business. Scammers regularly create and shut down websites, so a site that has only worked for a short time could set off red flags.Do an Internet search with the name of the company and the word “scam”. This can locate other complaints about the site.

• Review reviews: Scammers frequently post positive reviews on their websites, either copied from honest sites or created by scammers. A resource for checking reviews is at; some review websites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Look at the bad reviews first. These are more likely to be real and can help identify scams.

• Find contact information: Be careful if the site doesn’t have a US phone number or uses a Gmail or Yahoo work email address.

• Keep track of what you ordered: Note the website where you ordered goods. Take a screenshot of the ordered item in case the website goes down or you receive a different item than advertised.

•Pay by credit card: Credit cards often offer better protection against fraud than other payment methods.

Report online shopping fraud to:

• Better Business Bureau – file a complaint with or report a scam to

• Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – file a complaint with or call 877-FTC-Help.

• Internet Crime Complaint Entry (IC3) – file a complaint with

•Facebook – report ads that violate Facebook policies by clicking the *** next to an ad to access it

• Instagram – report copyright infringement or other policy violations to

Amazon – report suspicious activity and web pages to

google – report scams to

•PayPal – call (888) 221-1161 to speak with a live person instead of using their automated system if you receive an item that is not as advertised.

• Your credit card company – Call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report fraud and request your money.

Kelvin Collins is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 77 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, eastern Georgia and western South Carolina. This advice column is provided by the local BBB and the International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB). The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance, and helps consumers identify reputable businesses. Questions or complaints about a particular business or charity should be directed to the BBB directly at phone: 1-800-763-4222, website: or email: [email protected]