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BBB: Be on the lookout for scammers during major online sales events

Special for IFN

The annual sales from big retailers typically take place in July. More deals are great for consumers, and more people shopping is great for businesses big and small. Just be careful not to get so carried away by the excitement that you fall for phishing scams, misleading ads, and fake websites.

Make sure you know what to look for when shopping online for July’s big sales.

BBB Tips for Online Shopping During July Retail Sales:

● Research the seller or retailer. Before you buy, check out customer reviews of the products you’re interested in and do some research on the retailer. Make sure you can find the seller’s contact information and write it down. Look up the retailer on BBB.org to see if they’re BBB-accredited and check their profile to read customer reviews.

● Be on the lookout for emails and text messages that appear to be from a popular retailer. Phishing increases during busy shopping days. These messages may claim that you have a gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with the delivery. Know what options you have accepted and declined before clicking. When making a lot of purchases, keep track of your purchase, where it came from, and tracking numbers. Be on the lookout for fake package delivery text messages, and don’t click on any links you receive that look suspicious.

● Be wary of ads on social media. You may come across similar websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a reputable retailer. But if you look more closely at the URL, you’ll notice that the domain name is slightly different (i.e., instead of Popularstore.com, the URL could be PopvlarStore.com or PopularStoreOnline.com). Make sure the websites use the correct spelling of the business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers. Also, trust your gut when evaluating deals. If a company claims to sell the hottest item of the year at a super low price, that’s probably not true.

● Be wary of websites that look similar: check the URL, watch out for poor grammar, research the age of the domain, look for contact information, and read online reviews.

● Professional photos don’t mean it’s a real deal. Photos can be stolen from other websites, so don’t believe everything you see. If logos or other images on the website appear blurry, take that as a red flag for a scam.

● Make sure the website is secure. Look for the word “HTTPS” in the URL (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and a small lock icon in the address bar. Never enter personal or payment information on a website that only has “HTTP.” It is NOT secure.

● Be careful when buying highly sought-after products. If something is sold out everywhere, don’t be tempted by a seemingly great deal. Scammers often trick buyers by offering them the most popular products at low prices.

● Pay with a credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If suspicious charges later appear, you can dispute them through your credit card company. Be very wary of any retailer that asks you to pay with digital wallet apps, prepaid cards, or other non-traditional payment methods. These are red flags for scams.