With the holidays approaching, and online shopping reaching its annual peak, scammers are out in full force to get at your money and your purchases. There are many scams to watch for this time of year, from online “retailers” phishing for information as you shop, to brazen porch thieves who swipe delivered packages from doorsteps, and so many more. The non-delivery scam can be particularly difficult to spot, and recovery is nearly impossible. Here’s what you need to know about this scam and how to protect yourself.
How the scam plays out
In a non-delivery scam, a shopper makes an online purchase, often at a discounted price. They may have chanced upon this “sale” through a social media ad, an unsolicited email or a banner ad on their favorite website. Unfortunately, though, the promised package is never delivered. After weeks of waiting, the shopper may try reaching out to the seller, only to find that the seller’s gone AWOL, along with the victim’s chances of recovering their money and/or their purchase.
The best way to protect yourself against non-delivery scams is to practice online safety measures and to shop smartly. Here’s how.
- Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or on social media, regardless of how amazing the offer may be. If an ad looks promising, look up the alleged associated retailer directly and on your own.
- Keep your device’s security at its strongest settings and mark all suspicious emails as spam.
- Opt out of websites that are full of typos and/or grammatical errors.
- Check each website’s URL for authentic spelling and signs of security, like the “https” and padlock icon. Recheck each landing page as you shop.
- When shopping a new seller, do some research before sharing any information with the seller. Look for a phone number and street address associated with the seller or company, dig up some online reviews and ratings and Google the retailer’s name along with the word “scam” to see if anything comes up.
- When shopping a private seller on an online marketplace, like Jiji or Etsy, check the seller’s profile carefully. Be extra wary if the profile is new.
- Avoid shopping at retailers who insist on payment via prepaid gift cards or wire transfer. When shopping online, it’s best to use a credit card.
- Stay away from sellers who advertise as if they are residents of the U.S. and then respond to questions by claiming that they are actually out of the country.
- Always ask for and save the tracking numbers of online purchases. Monitor the shipping process so you can dispute the charge if the process seems suspect.
- Be wary of items with prices that are too good to be true; in all likelihood they are.
If you’re targeted
If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a non-delivery scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage.
First, if you’ve paid via credit card, call the issuing company to dispute the charge as soon as you recognize the scam. If you believe the account has been compromised, you may want to close it and place a credit alert and/or credit freeze on your name as well. Next, be sure alert the Federal Trade Commission about the scam so they can do their part in catching the crooks. If the alleged retailer is on the Better Business Bureau website, you can let them know, too. Finally, let your friends know about the scam so they know to be aware.
Online commerce makes holiday shopping so much easier–but scams are everywhere. Shop smartly this season and follow the tips outlined here to avoid getting scammed. Stay safe!