Are you an online shopper? BBB has helpful tips to avoid a scam

By: Melanie McGovern, Communications Director BBB of Upstate New York

We all know you can’t beat the convenience of getting what you need at the click of a button; all too often, consumers find what they ordered is not what they get. Worse, many websites are total scams that take your money and don’t send a thing. How can you be certain the websites where you shop are legitimate?

More than two-thirds of North American consumers shop online on a regular basis, and Better Business Bureau handles more than 10,000 complaints each year about internet shopping.

Better Business Bureau® of Upstate New York wants everyone to beware of fraudulent websites that pop up, sometimes looking almost exactly like the real thing.

Since its inception in 2015, over 5,000 reports are on BBB’s Scam Tracker tool. Scam Tracker provides the public with crowd-sourced scam information.

Several people have complained to BBB or filed Scam Tracker reports about ordering merchandise and not receiving it. When they try to contact the company, they find there is no customer service number and that too many times, the website is being run overseas.

So how do you know a website is the real deal? BBB says look for the following:

Spot look-alike sellers. Watch out for web addresses that use the names of well-known brands along with extra words or letters. It’s easy for scammers to copy a retailer’s website by taking its photos and descriptions. Even the confirmation email can be deceiving and seem legitimate. Check out businesses at  before you shop.

Look for the BBB seal. Some websites take the BBB torch seal and use it fraudulently to trick consumers into thinking it is a legitimate business. To check if a company is a BBB Accredited Business, click on the blue BBB torch icon; it should take you to to view the company’s Business Profile. If not, there is a chance it could be a scam.

Advertisement of products on social media. Several scams reported to BBB were advertised on social media or used social media as a means of contact. Remember, anyone can create a Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter account. Check to see if the social media accounts have links to websites to make certain the business is legitimate.

Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure there should be an “s” in “https://” and a green lock icon in the address bar on the purchase or shopping cart page.
Are you still not sure if a site is legitimate? Before you commit to buying anything, make sure to follow these tips:

Is the website asking for an unusual form of payment? Just say no! Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay with a prepaid debit card, gift card, wire transfer, third party, etc. These payments most often can’t be traced or undone.

Be wary of signing up for an account. Some websites require credit card information when creating an account. By creating an account and providing personal information, it may mean signing up for an unknown subscription, charge or for scammers to hack your card information.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

To learn more about BBB’s Scam Tracker, visit

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau® has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, available free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB serving Upstate New York was founded in 1923 and serves 48 counties.