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Crime Behind the Screen: Steering clear of online shopping scams

The Better Business Bureau serving West Michigan says since the onset of the pandemic, social media scams have skyrocketed
Credit: wzzm

WEST MICHIIGAN - Since the pandemic began, the Better Business Bureau serving West Michigan reports that online and social media targeted scams have skyrocketed.

“They’ll look like legitimate ads, its very easy to buy a Facebook ad and put something out there," says Troy Baker, Educational Foundation Director for the BBB serving West Michigan. “So we see companies that just don’t deliver anything at all, we see companies that lead you to believe you’re gonna get it in a couple days or weeks, and its coming from China and you might get it a couple months from now. But in that intervene period you feel like you’ve been scammed.”

Often, these website are hard to get in touch with, and the customer is left with no answers. But that should have been a clue. Before a shopper clicks to buy from any online company or website, they should identify contact information like a phone number or email address. If this information cannot be found, do not shop there.

If a customer has already placed an order and cannot get in touch with a company to track an order, the company should be reported to the Better Business Bureau to investigate. Find appropriate links to report a scam here.

And to help protect Americans from scammers, the Better Business Bureau has partnered with the University of Minnesota and University of Southern California to review scam tracker data to identify where scams have gotten worse since the pandemic began. 

In their research, Muskegon now ranks 13 among the most affected zip codes for scams across the United States.

“They found that communities with high minority populations are the most likely to lose money to a scam," says Troy Baker. "The BBB has new programs and our scam busters program in schools, and over the last year we’ve done a number of programs within Muskegon schools and across west Michigan, teaching students about scams and what to watch for. We have our fighting financial fraud series which teaches adults and seniors what to watch for and how to avoid it.”

And here are steps to take to identify a company as a scam:

-Take the time to do the research on every company you order from. Search for comments from other shoppers about their experience with the company.

-Locate a phone number or email address for the company. If this cannot be found, do not shop with that company.

-For people not shopping for products, but looking to make an investment in a popular trend like Bitcoin Cryptocurrency, find an expert both knowledgeable and trustworthy to determine if an investment is legitimate before sending money anywhere.

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