“They” say if it seems too good to be true, chances are it is not true. The same can be said for online shopping advertisements promoting major deals on name-brand merchandise. As a consumer, it is important for you to be cautious and vigilant when online shopping to protect yourself – and your hard-earned money.
Common Bogus Online Shopping Sites
You may recognize this scenario; you’re browsing around on Facebook or Instagram, and a promoted post pops up from a company you’re not familiar with, but they’re selling your favorite brand at a discount, or offering a miracle solution for weight-loss or skin care. What’s the harm in checking it out, right? These types of scams are extremely common and can lure you into making a purchase for one thing but getting something completely different.
Even advertisements for “free” or “no-risk” services should be carefully researched. Often times “free” means you pay for shipping and handling only up-front, but you’re actually agreeing to be charged the full amount of the product if you don’t call to say you are not satisfied within 14 days of ordering. And even worse; you may have signed up for a monthly recurring subscription that you will have a very difficult time getting out of.
Here are some common red flags to look out for when you are online shopping:
- Any advertisements that pop up on social media that you do not recognize, especially ones that appear to be selling name-brand merchandise at a deep-discount.
- Advertisements for “free” or “no risk” services, such as weight-loss pills, skin care products, etc.
- Money-transfer scams that involve making a purchase on websites like Mercari or Etsy and the seller offers a discount if you pay them through Cash App or Venmo. No merchandise is ever received, and that money is gone once you send it without the ability to dispute the charge.
What You Can do to Protect Yourself
The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to do your research before making any online purchases, especially with companies you are unfamiliar with. Often, a quick Google search with that company’s name will expose any patterns of fraud that other people may have experienced.
Find out the following:
- Have other users had good or bad experiences with that company?
- Are they advertising themselves as being from the United States, but their contact information is a foreign phone number?
- Are you able to Google the company outside of social media and find an official website?
- Does the website address contain an “https” in the URL, signifying that the site itself is secure?
- Does their website contain grammatical errors, strange phrasing, or other language inconsistencies?
Sign Up for Account and Card Alerts
Online shopping can come with the risk of your information being compromised. There are steps you can take to protect yourself, while still safely enjoying the convenience of shopping online. Real-time alerts are an effective way to catch fraud early so you can dramatically reduce your chance of losing money due to unauthorized transactions. You can set up alerts to text or email you whenever there is activity on your bank account or debit card. Be sure to also set up alert notices on any credit cards you use. If you notice a suspicious or unfamiliar transaction, call your financial institution or credit card company immediately.
The Bottom Line and the Fine Print
There are many reputable businesses, both small and large, that offer online purchasing capabilities, but it is your responsibility as a consumer to do your research and to read any “fine print” and disclaimers that a company asks you to agree to. If you are unsure about making a purchase from a company, or something does not feel right, trust your instincts. While you may miss out on a discount pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, you will be protecting your most important asset: your financial information.
If you suspect your Main Street Bank account has been exposed to fraud, we will do whatever we can to help. Contact us as soon as you notice unauthorized activity on your account at 508-481-8300.
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