With the holiday season upon us, online shoppers are eagerly searching for deals, but this also marks the peak season for scammers exploiting the digital marketplace. The rise in fake products and scam websites poses a significant risk to unsuspecting consumers. Experts advise caution and diligence to ensure a safe and genuine shopping experience. Lindsay Schweitzer, a small business owner specializing in handcrafted cutting boards, expresses concern over the influx of inferior products flooding the online market.
“The reality of purchasing cheap, low-quality items is often masked by the allure of saving money,” Schweitzer notes, highlighting the health risks associated with substandard materials in kitchenware. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has observed an increase in scam activities, particularly through social media advertisements. Melanie McGovern from the BBB suggests skepticism towards deals that seem too good to be true, such as luxury items at drastically low prices.
For instance, Apple AirPods offered at $29 are likely counterfeit. When encountering an unfamiliar online retailer, McGovern advises verifying their legitimacy through the BBB’s website. Additionally, she warns of the prevalence of copycat websites, a common tactic used by scammers to mimic legitimate businesses. The Trend Micro research team has identified over 66,000 active shopping-related scam URLs in the U.S. alone.
Consumers are encouraged to inspect web addresses for the secure “https” protocol and the presence of a lock icon in the address bar. Another red flag is inconsistency in product images and descriptions, often indicative of a lack of authenticity. McGovern emphasizes the importance of grammar and language use as markers of credibility. Should anything appear unusual or suspect, she advises shoppers to exit the website immediately.
In an effort to ensure quality and authenticity, consumers might consider supporting local artisans and businesses. Lavita Board, a candle maker, offers a tangible shopping experience at her store Vitascents. “Purchasing from local sellers not only guarantees quality but also supports the community,” Board remarks. In summary, as online shopping continues to grow, so does the sophistication of scams. Shoppers are encouraged to remain vigilant, question deals that seem overly advantageous, and whenever possible, support local businesses to avoid falling prey to online scams.