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Consumer beware: Where to avoid online shopping scams

Scammers are using a technique called “like-farming,” where they ask you to like or comment on their post for a chance to win a holiday prize.

Luxury shops have been particular targets in the surge of robberies. — © Digital Journal
Luxury shops have been particular targets in the surge of robberies. — © Digital Journal

A new study projects online shopping scams will for the remainder of 2021. This is particularly over the Holiday period as consumers set to spend a record $207 billion online. Examples of risk factors include fake websites, Instagram giveaways, and Secret Santa contents. Ideally consumers will be aware of these and will seek to avoid them.

However, the operation of markets is reliant upon good information and it is perhaps timely that the website SocialCatfish.com has released a study titled “Online Shopping Scams to Avoid This Holiday Season”. This is a U.S.-centric study and it draws upon Federal Trade Commission data.

From this review, the 10 U.S. states most at-risk, based on how much they lost to fraudsters are:

1) California: $621 million

2) New York: $415 million,

3) Texas $313 million

4) Florida: $295 million

5) Ohio: $170 million

6) Illinois: $150 million

7) Missouri: $115 million

8) Pennsylvania: $108 million

9) Virginia: $101 million

10) Colorado: 100 million

The sums related to losses lost to fraud, based on 2020 figures.

Online shopping has also been the most common scam relating to the pandemic, as the consequence of more people operating online.

In terms of additional information for consumers, SocialCatfish.com have sent the following advice to Digital Journal.

The missing package scam

Capitalizing on inevitable supply chain delays, scammers pretend to be FedEx and send an email with a link to track your package. When clicked on, these malicious links steal your personal and financial information. They also may text, leave voicemails, or place a “missed delivery” tag on your front door.

How to Avoid: Never click a link or call back a number from an unexpected delivery notice. Always contact the company directly using a verified number or website.

Social media secret Santa scam

A pyramid scheme called “Secret Sister” is circulating on Facebook. Scammers recruit “sisters” with the promise that if they buy a $10 gift for another member, they will receive 36 gifts in return. A version of this scam includes exchanging bottles of wine.

How to Avoid: Do not respond to communication from “Secret Sister” or do an exchange “for the good of the sisterhood.”

Fake websites

Look out for fake websites that advertise enormous sales on popular gift ideas that are out of stock everywhere else due to supply chain issues. Fake sites have a domain name with an extraneous letter or number, grammatical errors, and limited contact information.

How to Avoid: Research the company and read customer reviews before purchasing. Google their name with the word “scam” to see if anything comes up.

Charity gift scams

In addition to traditional gifting, people may donate to charity on someone’s behalf. This increased during COVID-19 and ramps up every year during the season of giving. Scammers pose as a fake charity to solicit fraudulent donations. Often, they pick a name that sounds close to a well-known charity.

How to Avoid: Search the charity on a public database such as BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator.

Fake Instagram giveaways

Around the holidays, brands and influencers offer free product giveaways. Scammers are using a technique called “like-farming,” where they ask you to like or comment on their post for a chance to win a holiday prize. They include malicious links and steal your personal information.

How to Avoid: Look for the blue checkmark which social media platforms use to verify a real page from copycats. Watch for typos and accounts with limited content.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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