A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Making an online purchase? Beware of where you click as marketplace scams abound

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Marketplace scams represent a $50 billion drain on the U.S. economy, robbing consumers and legitimate businesses alike. Scams have a negative impact on one in four households and one in five individuals each year. These thieves masquerade as trusted brands, erode consumer confidence in the marketplace and often hide on the internet.

Last year, people in the U.S. and Canada reported over 47,000 scams to BBB’s Scam Tracker. Using the collected data and analyzing it with a proprietary BBB Scam Index which reviewed exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. The findings showed that online purchase scams are considered the riskiest form of fraud. The majority of online purchase scams happen when a payment is made online in exchange for a good or service but nothing is delivered as promised.

The most common online purchase scams in 2017 were related to pets, clothing, cosmetics, electronics, and automobiles. The offer of free trials was a common tactic for these online purchases; 67 percent of scams involving cosmetics and 60 percent involving nutrition products mentioned a free trial opportunity.

Victims weren’t only defrauded online, they were also contacted by phone and email. The 2.4 billion robocalls recorded by the Federal Communications Commission in 2016 was enough to prompt industry and consumer stakeholders to come up with creative initiatives to block these calls from coming into the country. Efforts continue to educate the public to consider using a blocking service on their phone or don’t answer a call from an unfamiliar number.

If thieves are looking for personal information like a username, password or access an account, the most popular way to gain this information is to phish for it meaning sending emails pretending to be from a reputable company in order to convince someone to reveal personal information.

Scammers are so successful at their craft because they make the promise of a great deal that is often too good to be true. Once the pitch is made, they’ll make a high-pressure push to get an immediate response without allowing time for the victim to think about it. If that doesn’t work, the fraudster will resort to intimidation and the idea something bad will happen such as imprisonment, fees or in some cases deportation.

The continued fight against scams is critical to limiting the financial and emotional damage to victims. By continuing to report robocalls, phishing attempts, and social media imposters to BBB’s Scam Tracker it can only help restore consumer confidence in honest businesses.

For more information on specific scams and tips on how to avoid them, go to BBB.org/ScamTips and report a scam to scamtracker.org. For a full copy of the report, go to http://us.bbb.org/2017riskreport

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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