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BBB report says online scams hit harder in 2021

BBB warns of 'synthetic' identity theft that combines information from multiple people
Posted at 9:38 AM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 09:38:42-04

WEST MICHIGAN — The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan is warning consumers to watch out for the top scam of 2021 so far – online purchase scams.

Seventy-five percent of those targeted reported losing money to these online scams, according to a BBB report released Tuesday.

Read the full report here.

The new report gives a look at how consumers are targeted.

In many cases, customers were actively searching for a business and came across the scam on Google.

However, half the people who reported losing money through a Facebook ad weren’t initially looking to make a purchase. These “passive buyers” saw something that caused them act and it led to them losing money, BBB said.

“A growing number of people just scrolling through social media are becoming victims of this popular scam,” said Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Just because it is a paid ad doesn’t make it a legitimate offer.”

For example, a Grand Rapids woman tried to purchase a highchair online and is now out $185 after multiple unsuccessful attempts to get ahold of the company.

Other findings from the BBB report include:

  • A good sale price was the no. 1 reason scam victims made a purchase from these problematic websites. 
  • 75% of the victims said they never received what they ordered, while others said they received something else, like a counterfeit product. 
  • The most common counterfeit product of 2021 is footwear, including Nike, Prada and Adidas brands. 
  • People ages 18-24 were more likely to lose money to online purchase scams and lost more money than older adults. 

“Scammers will offer name brand and highly sought-after products at a much lower price to entice people into taking advantage of the deal,” Catlett said. “The old saying holds true: If an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is.”

BBB offered the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of these scams:

  • Research before you buy. 
  • Beware of fake websites. 
  • If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Avoid impulse buying. 
  • Make sure the website is secure. 
  • Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. 
  • Look out for phishing texts or emails that pose as official notices from delivery companies. 
  • Report suspicious activities to the BBB Scam Tracker to help other consumers avoid being scammed.