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Monday, June 5, 2017

How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

The internet offers great bargains and fast delivery. Know what to watch for so you can shop safely and securely.

Grabbing great deals on the internet is almost as fun as finding a bargain in person at a local store. Plus, the convenience of online shopping can’t be beat: Shop, order and pay from the comfort of your home, sit back and wait for delivery. What’s not to like?

Sneaky Shopping Scams

Other online shopping scams include:

  • Fake ads on classified-ad websites such as Always insist on meeting in person to inspect the item before you pay in cash.

  • Surveys that promise a payoff of any kind (a free product, for example) once completed.

  • Retailers that do not allow payment through secure services such as credit card transactions or PayPal. If one insists on a wire payment, your bank account information, a prepaid money card or a money order, don’t finalize the purchase.

  • Websites that don’t offer information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution, refund policies, or contact details.

  • Sites with poor-quality images or that have another company’s logo or watermark.

Statistics show that more people than ever are shopping online. The share of U.S. consumers who shopped online on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) in 2016 increased to 73 percent, while a solid 40 percent of consumers now shop several times per month online. At the same time, a Forbes Magazine survey of 125 retailers showed online fraud attempts were expected to rise more than 40 percent.

Bob Schulties is a content manager for, a technology advice site. He loves to shop online just like anyone else. He’s learned a few secrets, however, that he wants Senior Spirit readers to know.

“One of the things to keep in mind when you shop anywhere is that people have been scamming other people since the dawn of time,” Schulties says. “The Romans coined a phrase: ‘Caveat emptor’ means ‘buyer beware’—and that’s what every shopper should remember when purchasing items online.”

Schulties says online shopping scams are always changing, but the basics remain the same.

“If you see a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he says. “Think of the $75 off fake coupon supposedly from Bed, Bath and Beyond that recently went around the internet. And one of the most common scams I warn readers about are penny auction sites where you buy credits in order to purchase an item for a few dollars. You will spend more in purchasing credits than any product is ever worth!”

He adds that fake shopping sites will mimic legitimate retailers by stealing logos, advertising the same products at lower prices or using pop-up ads for “terrific deals.”

Bed Bath and Beyond Fake $75 Coupon

Seven Online Shopping Safety Tips

Schulties and other experts advise online shoppers to remember these tips:

  • Use a site you or a friend are familiar with and have used before with success.

  • Ensure you are truly on that site by checking the URL at the top of your web browser. It should not be missing letters ( or have extra letters or numbers tacked onto it (

  • Confirm the site is secure by checking for the lock to the right of the URL or an ‘s’ after the http. A secure site will have at least one and usually both. For example, the official Amazon link will look like this: Https:// secure website

  • Never follow a link to a site. If you receive an email from Kohl’s, for instance, don’t just click the link to get to the deal. Go to the retailer using the URL you already know. The deal will still be available. If you follow a link in an email, you could be setting yourself up to provide credit card information, passwords and your personal information to a fake site.

  • Use a credit card for purchases. You can use a debit card, of course, but that instantly withdraws cash from your account. Credit cards have a stronger layer of protection that keeps your cash in hand as you work out any problems with a retailer, whether it’s fraud or not.

  • Never give a site your Social Security number. If a site wants that information, just leave it. There is never a reason, say experts, for a site to require your Social Security number to make a purchase.

  • Always change your passwords. Even if you change it up slightly, use a different password for every site you shop. It’s a pain, but it’s a far bigger pain to have your information stolen from one legitimate site and then used on multiple sites to make purchases before you even know anything is happening.

Schulties recommends password manager program 1Password to keep your passwords organized. This program is simple to use, remembers all passwords for you and keeps each site’s password secure.

“These guys are the real deal and have been around a long time—I use them,” he says. “When you sign up through them, it will remember all your passwords from all your sites. You simply sign in using a single, master password with them; 1Password remembers the rest of your passwords for the sites you visit.”

Above all, he says, just stay vigilant. “Most sites are great—if you keep your eyes open, you’ll be just fine.”


Statistics and Facts about Online Shopping Behavior in the United States,” Feb. 2017, Statista.

Shopping Online,” Sept. 2011, Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Shopping Online.

Top 10 Scams - 2017,” Feb. 14, 2017, Better Business Bureau.

Online Safety,” May 10, 2017,, Online Safety.

Why Online Shopping Fraud is Expected to Jump 43% This Holiday Season And How To Protect Yourself,” Laura Shin, Nov. 23, 2016, Forbes Magazine.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors