Online purchase

Online shopping scams are among the top three riskiest scams in Canada – Barriere Star Journal

Last year, almost a third of scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker by Canadians involved online shopping scams. With 73.3% of those targeted losing money, online shopping scams rank third among the riskiest scams in Canada according to the 2021 BBB Risk Report.

A study by the Better Business Bureau found that more than half (53%) of Canadians are shopping more online and 56% are spending more time browsing online or on social media. These increases are likely contributing factors to the increase in online scams.

The BBB’s 2021 Online Shopping Scams Report also noted that the 18-24 age group was more likely to report losing money (81.1%) than all other age groups .

Online scams are wide and varied and encompass issues such as:

* Paying for items that never arrive or are of poor quality or not as promised

* Get an invoice for unexpected import taxes and other last minute charges

* Fake websites,

* Buy or receive counterfeits,

* Free trial subscription/traps

An example of a common online fraud report involves a consumer responding to online advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. After placing an order for products through these advertisements, the victims did not receive anything or counterfeit or inferior items than the advertisements promised. Scammers often take product photos or a landing page of legitimate businesses, post them to Facebook and Instagram, and take online orders on websites they have created. This leads to complaints against legitimate businesses, as victims often don’t realize they lost their money because of a scam compared to the legitimate business the scammer was describing.

Other emerging online scams include expensive pets, vehicles, and free trial scams. A Canadian consumer said she fell prey to a free trial scam because the ad included what was perceived to be a Costco logo. Once she put in personal and credit card information to get the free trial, she was charged multiple times afterward, losing a total of over $600. When the consumer contacted the representatives, they never addressed her complaint or offered her a solution or refund. Eventually, the consumer asked to speak to a supervisor, but only false contact information was provided.

To avoid falling victim to online shopping scams, BBB suggests that you follow these tips:

• Do not buy online unless the transaction is secure. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small padlock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shaded.

• Avoid making quick purchases when browsing social networks. Scammers advertise websites that offer great deals or hard-to-find products, but either don’t deliver the product at all or deliver counterfeit products. Do more research on the products you found through online research.

• Check the website before making a purchase:

– Check to check a company’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Some may copy the BBB seal to legitimize themselves. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile.

– Do an Internet search with the name of the company and the word “scam”. This can locate other complaints about the site.

– 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.

Check customer reviews: Scammers frequently post positive reviews on their websites, either copied from honest sites or created by scammers. is a reliable resource for checking reviews. Beware, some review sites 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.

• Look up contact information: Be careful if the site doesn’t have a Canadian 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 item ordered, 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. Never use debit cards for online purchases.

• Report online shopping fraud to the right place:

– Better Business Bureau – file a complaint at or report a scam at

– Canadian Anti-Fraud Center – file a report at anti-fraud or call 1-888-495-8501.

– Report ads that violate standards, copyright or other policies to the appropriate source, such as: Facebook (, Instagram ( or Amazon.

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

For the full report and highlights of the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report 2021, visit:

Go to to report a scam, learn more about other risky scams at


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