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Online shopping photo by Paul Felberbauer via

published on July 23, 2021 - 1:51 PM
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The local Butter Business Bureau is warning consumers about an uptick in scams and shady online shopping websites.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties said it has seen a nearly 24% increase in complaints filed against online retailers in the last six months. In the past three years, 636 online retailers in the BBB area have had complaints filed against them, with $2.3 million in disputed charges.

The local 11-county BBB area includes Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.

After investigating the most common complaints filed against the 10 worst offenders, the local BBB found some trends:

— Almost 59% of complaints were due to an issue with the product/service in question (inferior product or different product all together)

— 25% of complaints were due to delivery issues (mostly late delivery or sometimes no delivery at all)

According to a 2020 study conducted by BBB (, 80.5% of consumers that reported experiencing an online purchase scam ended up losing their money. To help avoid the scam altogether, BBB highly recommends the following when shopping online:

Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site. If the site is missing contact information, that is a red flag. Check out retailers at before you shop.

Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.

Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.

Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.

Think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype.

Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs, or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.

Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand, but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft. One popular scam claims to be from a package-delivery company with links to “tracking information” on an order you don’t remember making. Don’t click!

Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve or to get your money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.

Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.

Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software for network security. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet, and smart phone.

If you or someone you know encounters a scam, BBB recommends you report it immediately on BBB Scam Tracker ( and help let others know to be on the lookout for that type of scam.


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