MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs wants consumers to be careful of online shopping as scams are on the rise.
“Online shopping scams have always been a thing but they’re definitely on the rise and we think it’s because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Bailey Parker, the communications director for the SC Department of Consumer Affairs.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recorded over 26,000 online shopping fraud reports resulting in $16.26 million lost since Jan. 1.
“Scammers follow the headlines, that’s what we always tell people, they are following the headlines so if it’s a hurricane, they’re doing hurricane-related scams, if it’s a pandemic, they’re doing pandemic-related scams,” Parker said. “If it’s anything that they can find related to being newsworthy that a lot of people would know about, they take advantage of that.”
Online scams can happen to anyone
Parker said one of the misconceptions when it comes to online scams is people think it won’t happen to them, but she said they’re more common than people think.
“I think there is a misconception about scammers in general, that scammers don’t speak good English or that they are grammatically incorrect, or they’re going to have an accent if they call you on the phone,” Parker said. “These are not necessarily true anymore. That may have been true five years ago, that may have been true three years ago, but scammers are everywhere now, they are intelligent, they are well-spoken, and they are well versed in technology.”
Where are the online scams happening?
Parker said the most recent online scams are happening on popular shopping websites like Amazon.
“They look like they’re selling a legitimate product, it looks real, there are all these amazing reviews on there and it ends up being a total and complete scam and nothing ends up ever showing up,” Parker said.
Parker said the third-party sellers on Amazon are the ones people should look out for.
How to tell if it’s a scam
“So you can actually go to an Amazon third-party seller and find out how long their store has been open; if it’s been open for less than 6 months, that should be a red flag, try and find somebody that has been open longer and has a longer history of reviews and also see when the reviews have been written, if it happens that all 40 reviews on their storefront were posted yesterday, that’s a huge red flag of a scam storefront, also you just really want to look at the pricing, this is where the too good to be true, it probably is, comes into play,” Parker said.
How to prevent being scammed
“Number one: make sure you’re really doing your research of ‘has this storefront been around for a while’ and ‘when were the reviews written,'” Parker said.
Parker added that to always use a credit card when online shopping. She said to verify a website has an “s” after the “http” in a website URL and to verify it has an actual address and phone number.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
“Give us a call, you can report scams to us whether you fall them or not and if you feel like you’ve been a victim of identity theft cause some of this can end up with your identity being stolen or used for other purposes so always give us a call, we can try and help walk you through the process of ok has your identity been compromised, what do you need to do now, and obviously call your credit card company or your bank if you did use a debit card. You want to do that as quickly as possible no matter what form of payment you used, if you did shop on a site like a regular site like amazon or target or wherever, tell them too, they have processes that they have to go through and offer you extra protection that you wouldn’t have otherwise so just report it to as many people as you can,” Parker said.
To contact the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, call 800-922-1594 or visit their site to report fraudulent or suspicious activity.