Online shopping warning: ‘It pays to be very careful when you are shopping online’

Experts warn of online shopping scams during holiday season.

Online shopping warning: ‘It pays to be very careful when you are shopping online’
Senior woman's hand holding a credit card while in front of the laptop shopping online (Source: Ammentorp Photography)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - If you’re thinking of getting started with some holiday shopping today, you’re not alone.

A new study shows 95% of Americans will do their Christmas shopping online this year.

Before you shop online though, 19 News is partnering with The Cuyahoga County Scam Squad with a warning about fake websites.

If you’re in a rush to get your shopping done, you may want to slow down and do some research before checking out.

“It pays to be very careful when you are shopping online,” said Sue McConnell, Cleveland BBB President.

Reports showed last month alone, there were nearly 900 reports of online shopping scams. Sixty-one percent of those people reported losing money.

In Northeast Ohio, over the last two months, dozens of people reported online shopping losses to the BBB’s scam tracker.

“If you’re Googling the name of a product, for example, you’re going to find a website that’s probably selling that product at a very low price," McConnell said.

McConnell said websites can often use fake accreditation to make them seem legit.

One company, from China, claimed they were registered and affiliated with the BBB. McConnell said that’s not the case.

19 News uncovered one website selling Cleveland Browns merchandise that is not affiliated with the NFL or BBB.

In fact, it’s illegal for the website to be selling Browns gear. The site was just taken down this week.

McConnell said the BBB has received complaints about customers buying items from this site only to never get them.

“If you get your order at all, you’ll often find that it’s some cheap counterfeit knockoff. It doesn’t look like the picture on the website," McConnell warned.

There are some things you can do to protect yourself and your cash:

  • Look up the website on whois.com.
    • It will show you when and where the website was created. If it was just created around the holidays, it could be a scam.
  • Always pay with a credit card.
    • If there are problems with your order, you can often times dispute the charges with your bank.
  • Look carefully into return and exchange policies.
  • Print a picture of what the item looks like on the website to ensure you’re getting the same item.
  • Shop early.
    • If there’s a problem with your order, you’ll still have time to find a replacement.

If you feel you’ve been scammed or maybe you came across a website that seems illegal, call the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM.

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