Learn more about how to prevent online purchase scams and package thieves from ruining your holiday plans in part two of BBB’s four-part safe holiday shopping series.
For many consumers in the U.S. who primarily shop online, there is little distinction between Cyber Monday and Black Friday deals other how it is advertised. While some Black Friday promotions require shoppers to physically visit a store for heavily discounted “doorbusters,” retailers also frequently offer discounts during Black Friday on their digital stores. Many other online retailers also participate in a promotion becoming known as Cyber Week, offering a wide range of products at various discounts leading up to, and often going past, Cyber Monday.
While Cyber Monday itself is still the single-most popular day for consumer spending in the U.S., with an expected $11.2 billion in revenue for a single day, Cyber Week (Thanksgiving Day – Cyber Monday) is expected to generate $34.8 billion. With billions of dollars in marketplace transactions occurring in a matter of days, Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to be wary of online scammers posing as legitimate sellers, as well as package thieves eager to capitalize on an increase in home deliveries.
Preventing Package Theft
According to market research firm C+R Research, nearly 1-in-7 Americans have experienced package theft so far in 2022. Historical data indicates that rates of package theft typically increase during the holiday season, with online searches for “package stolen” spiking in November and December for the past five years.
As a crime of opportunity, preventing or discouraging package theft can be accomplished in several ways, depending on the location of your residence, type and community.
Ship to store. If purchasing an item from a retailer that has a physical location near your home, consider shipping it there instead. Retailers will require proof of purchase or identification before releasing packages they have received, and this is a sure way to avoid porch pirates.
Use a security camera. Installing a home security system with cameras or simply a camera-enabled doorbell is a great way to deter package theft, especially when highly visible. Consider including a sign that specifically states that the residence is under surveillance. Even if a package is stolen from your porch, the video evidence will help law enforcement track down the thieves.
Require a signature. Many delivery companies include the option to require a signature before leaving a package, letting you take physical possession of the item as soon as it is delivered. While this option works well for those who are often at home, especially for expensive items, it may create difficulties in receiving packages if your schedule and the delivery service are different. Be sure to check with the delivery company on their policy for packages that are not signed for; they may return it to the sender after a certain number of attempts.
Preventing Online Purchase Scams
In 2021, BBB Scam Tracker received over 2,300 reports of online purchase scams totaling more than $1.1 million in losses during November and December and in 2020, nearly 3,000 reports totaled almost $1.2 million in losses. Scammers use a variety of tactics to entice engagement, such as offering steep discounts on high-priced items, disguising themselves as a reputable and well-known company, and providing fake customer testimonials or reviews. Be especially wary when searching for a new pet online, as reports of online pet scams have increased dramatically in the past two years with many victims losing thousands of dollars on bogus claims of ‘pet insurance’ and ‘quarantine procedures.’
Online scams can be extremely difficult to identify, and most victims only discover they have experienced one after providing payment. In addition to the loss of money, consumers who submit their credit card or debit card information to a fraudulent seller may find their account information has been compromised, leading to a series of unauthorized charges over time or identity theft. According to the FTC, credit card fraud is the most common type of identity theft reported to the agency, with more than 330,000 reports so far in 2022.
To help prevent online purchase scams this holiday season, Better Business Bureau recommends:
Research the company before making a purchase. Before entering any personal information into a website, research the company thoroughly. Examine the website. Poor quality images, images found on other websites, and spelling and grammatical errors are all red flags. A real business should have valid contact information (i.e., a working phone number and customer service email address). If the company has a physical address, research it on Google or Apple Maps. Look to see if they have a profile on BBB.org.
Look up reviews on other websites. Read as many reviews as possible from websites besides the product's company. Keep a close eye out for customer complaints. Search the business name in a trusted search engine along with the word “scam” to see if others have reported the business as a fake. Remember that customer reviews may be fabricated on the business’s official website; it is always a good idea to search out reviews on other platforms.
Use secure payment methods. BBB recommends paying for all online purchases using a credit card when possible. Credit cards offer additional protections from fraud than a debit card or wire transfer and a greater likelihood of getting your money back in case of a purchase from a fraudulent seller. If the seller insists on using abnormal payment methods, such as mobile banking apps or gift cards, it may be best to walk away from the transaction.
For more safe holiday shopping tips from your Better Business Bureau, visit BBB.org/Holiday.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.
Heather Massey, Vice President of Communications
BBB Media Office