Be careful when shopping online

Online purchase scams now account for more than a third of all scam reports filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and four out of five consumers who report such scams lose money, making it the #1 riskiest scam type.

BBB is warning consumers ahead of the holiday shopping season to be aware of how scammers deceive consumers, whether they are actively shopping or passively browsing.

The 2021 BBB Online Purchase Scams Report examines more than 55,000 online purchase scam reports submitted to BBB Scam Tracker between 2015 and 2021; as well as new survey research conducted in 2021 to get insights from those who reported online purchase scams in 2020 and 2021.

Online purchase scams consistently rank among the top three riskiest since 2017, and a significant number of people continue to lose money when targeted by online purchase scams (74.8% in 2021). The median dollar loss for this scam type has risen in recent years, up from $76 in 2019 to $102 so far in 2021.

Experts are predicting an earlier start to the 2021 holiday shopping season because of supply chain concerns, microchip shortages and holiday hiring. BBB warns scammers will find ways to take advantage of the situation by varying the product categories, capitalizing on what people are looking for online and focusing on the most sought-after gifts such as electronics, toys and other trendy gift items.

“These critical findings can help guide our scam prevention outreach to those most vulnerable to these scam types,” said Melissa Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, BBB’s foundation. “Online purchase scams don’t just affect those who lose money. For every victim who lost money, that meant less income to buy groceries, gifts, pay the utility bill, or the loss of personal information that could lead to identity theft.”

BBB offers the following tips to stay safe while online shopping:

•     If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and then lost money was price. Don’t shop on price alone.

•     Before you buy, do your research. Out of the 57 percent who did not research the website or business via an independent source before making a purchase, 81 percent lost money.

•     Beware of fake websites. Check the URL for errors/inconsistencies. Watch for bad grammar. Beware of new domain names. Search for accessible contact information. Read online reviews about the company and/or website.

To report a scam, go to