How to avoid online shopping scams
Watch video, 4 minutes
Every day we connect with stores and merchants through websites, shopping apps, and social media. Most of these are safe and run by real businesses.
But anything that is popular and easy to use can attract criminals and online shopping is no exception.
[Visual: B-roll of bridges with cars and accelerated footage of people walking through an open public space.]
Online criminals may try to sell you fraudulent goods.
[Visual: Two people at home viewing personal devices on which they explore online shopping offers.]
Some target online experiences such as gaming sites, to trick users out of money or personal information.
[Visual: A personal computer and two people, faces not seen, discussing what information they should provide to an online seller’s website.]
They may offer you products or services at a discount. Some will make you think you’re buying a name-brand or designer item but then they’ll send you fakes, or nothing at all.
[Visual: A pregnant woman reviews a recent purchase on her cell phone.]
So how can you try to protect yourself and those you love?
Safety starts by slowing down.
Whether you’re buying goods or services from a website, a shopping app, or responding to a pop-up ad, first look for signs that the seller is for real.
[Visual: Quick cuts of people in groups or alone engaging with devices and loading personal information to accounts.]
While there is no one feature to look for, here are some tips that can help you shop safely:
[Visual: Close up of a phone on which ‘adding to cart’ button is activated by a user.]
Here are some things to look for when you’re visiting a seller’s website.
Does the site look clean and professional?
Or does it look sloppy? As if someone created it quickly.
Does the text contain obvious spelling mistakes or incorrect word choices?
[Visual: Graphic of a computer monitor displaying a clean website, which falls into disorganization, representing a website that should arouse a shopper’s suspicion.]
Is there contact information, such as a phone number? If there is, try verifying that it belongs to the company and is a real number.
Are there product or company reviews on the seller’s site or on the web? An internet search can reveal whether there have been complaints about this company.
Does the seller have good return or exchange policies?
Does the website’s URL address have an ‘s’ at the end of ‘http’? This means the site is encrypted. An encrypted site does not guarantee safety. But you should be careful about buying anything from sites with no encryption.
[Visual: Quick-cut graphics demonstrate a verified phone number; online customer reviews; arrows that represent exchange policies; and a close-up of the web address, with extra magnification on the ‘s’ in ‘https’, which demonstrates site encryption.]
On social media, enticing ads for clever or attractive products pop-up all the time.
Here are a few things to look for before you get serious about buying something they advertise:
[Visual: B-roll of a woman scanning a pop-up ad on her phone, and a family planning what to buy for an upcoming gathering.]
First, try to make sure these ads belong to a real company:
Search for the company online to see if they have their own site or online shop.
Look at the terms and conditions of the sale, especially for ‘free trial’ or ‘limited time’ offers.
If you don’t see any terms and conditions, the offer may not be safe.
[Visual: A laptop shows connection to a seller’s website, on which a shopping basket appears, with ‘terms and conditions and a ‘FREE TRIAL’ button, on which symbols turn from red to green, indicating the deals offered are not safe.]
Do an internet search of the company name and ‘complaint.’ This can help you determine if the company has a history of scamming other people.
[Visual: A button representing the company connects to squares with green checks or a red x in the center, which represent other customers who have had positive or negative interactions with the company.]
Whenever you’re downloading or using shopping apps, here are a few things to look for:
Look at the app closely before you download and use it.
[Visual: people using mobile devices and shopping apps to buy goods.]
Check the spelling of the company name. Are you sure it’s the name-brand you recognize?
Is the logo right? Even established app stores may link to apps that are slightly different from apps owned by real merchants.
Don’t assume an app you’ve downloaded from a legitimate app store is safe.
Criminals can sometimes load fraudulent apps to these stores.
[Visual: Two squares, representing a fraudulent shopping app and a legitimate one, display lettering, checks and an x to signify their legitimacy and illegitimacy.]
No matter how you’re buying online, apply some common sense:
Is the deal too good to be true?
Name brand items for 85% off? That could be a warning sign.
Is someone from the seller’s company contacting you for payment information or special deals? This is often a red flag.
Remember: Taking a few moments to look closely before you click on a link or type in your credit card number can help you spot the threats and stay safe.
[Visual: Closeups of hands holding mobile phones and credit cards, followed by a woman shopping online in her home.]
[Visual: Bank of America logo]
Better Money Habits®
The material provided on this video is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Bank of America Corporation and/or its affiliates assume no liability for any loss or damages resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment management. Ⓒ 2021 Bank of America Corporation.
In this video
Many of us connect with stores and merchants through websites, apps and social media every day. But are you taking the right precautions before you buy? While most online retailers are safe and run by real businesses, shopping provides fresh opportunities for scammers to target you—they will try to trick you out of money or personal information. Watch this video to learn how to identify potential online shopping scams and some simple steps you can take to help you shop safely.
The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.
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