BBB warns of sophisticated online shopping scams


PINELLAS COUNTY, FL – Before you start checking items off your holiday shopping list, the experts have a disclaimer they want you to know. Online crooks are finding sophisticated new ways to get your hard-earned money back.

The West Florida branch of the Better Business Bureau in Clearwater says their online shopping scam reports discovered that 400 different types of products were used by crooks to commit fraud, including counterfeit products.

Scammers can capitalize on the most sought-after gifts such as electronics, toys, and designer clothes and shoes.

Nike shoes, NFL clothing, Apple gadgets, Louis Vuitton handbags, Tiffany jewelry, LEGO toys and 3M N95 masks appear to be the most counterfeit items sold online this holiday season.

Other items promoted by scammers include luggage, pet supplies, collectibles, and medical / nutritional products.

Irene Greco of Palm Harbor considers herself a savvy shopper, so when she came across a Facebook ad for Sketchers shoes, she thought she had found a good deal.

“This particular pair came out and it looked really comfortable and it was about a third of the price,” she said.

Greco says the website even had logos from legitimate designers and looked like the company’s regular website.

“It seems legitimate to me. There was no indication that it was from any other country or anything, ”she added.

Greco bought the shoes. Months later, she received a pair of shoes in the mail, but they were too small and certainly not Sketchers quality.

“There is no place,” he says, “designers.” At all, ”she said, examining the shoes.


The return address on the envelope was a random location in China.

“It’s very frustrating because they had a business name there, they had Sketchers and you assume, and you shouldn’t assume, that’s a valid sale,” she added.

Greco reported the website to the Better Business Bureau and Sketchers, only to find scams like these are on the increase.

The BBB told ABC Action News that we can expect to see more online scams than ever before with supply shortages and more people shopping online during the pandemic.

Many scam sites are advertised on legitimate social websites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, and they often tear off photos of legitimate products.

Before buying online, BBB’s Bryan Oglesby says you should always take a close look at a company’s website for grammatical errors, contact information, and a shipping address.

You can also search for the name of a website on the BBB website.

And of course, if something seems like too much of a deal, it probably is.

Think about the product you buy if it’s a very popular item and it sells for MSRP or retail and you even get it for $ 100 off and it’s not really a low price, it is always a red flag that it could be a scam because the crooks are grabbing it. They don’t want to go too low to make it obvious, ”he added.

Oglesby says fraudulent companies are fooling Americans with millions of dollars and the holiday season is prime time. He says it’s best to use a credit card for online shopping, but even if you receive a different item than you thought you might not get your money back.

“Because you receive something in the mail indicating delivery, it’s much more difficult to dispute that credit card debit with the credit card company because it shows proof of delivery to your home even though technically it’s not the product you thought you’d buy, ”Oglesby explained.

Bottom line: Do your research before you buy.

The BBB offers the following tips on how to identify a potential online shopping scam:

  • Watch for low-priced or mid-priced items, usually in the hundreds of dollars range for an item that is typically priced much higher at a retailer.
  • Consumers expect the quality of things like shoes, clothing, and jewelry. If an online search for these items has a range of items between $ 100 and $ 300 and associated with a popular brand or luxury item compared to a search using a designer’s name and has a much higher result dear, chances are it is not. the real product.
  • Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Typographical errors indicate that the site more than likely was set up quickly.
  • Look up contact information. Find a phone, email address, online chat feature, and check if there is a physical address for the business.
  • Check BBB. If a business displays a BBB Accredited Business seal, verify its legitimacy by visiting and research the company.


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