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U.S. News

Buyer Beware: How To Stay Safe Online Shopping In 2023

By CM Chaney · November 20, 2023

In brief…

  • Scammers use social media and copycat websites to sell fake products
  • Warning signs include prices too good to be true, inconsistent images, bad grammar
  • Support local sellers to avoid low-quality knockoffs
  • Check site security and business reputations to verify legitimacy
  • Leave suspicious sites immediately to avoid scams
Scammers are increasingly targeting online shoppers through social media ads and fake websites selling counterfeit products, so consumers should be vigilant about warning signs and buy local when possible this holiday season.  European Commission / Wikimedia

The convenience of online shopping comes with risks, as scammers create fake products and scam websites to target bargain-hunting holiday shoppers.

“I’ve gotten things that were broken, things not as they were advertised, wrong things coming,” said one local shopper who shared her story.

According to Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau, scammers are increasingly using social media ads to promote their fake products and websites.

“The biggest thing we’re seeing is ads on social media,” she said.

To avoid buying counterfeit items, McGovern advises being wary of prices that seem too good to be true. For example, Apple AirPods selling for $29 are likely fake. She recommends checking if unfamiliar retailers have a BBB profile, which can help determine if a business is legitimate.

However, even recognizable retailer names can be deceiving. Scammers create copycat websites that mimic real businesses. Research group Trend Micro found over 66,000 active scam shopping sites in the U.S. You can check questionable URLs at Trend Micro’s website.

Look for the “s” after “HTTP” in the web address, indicating a secure site. Also look for the lock icon in the address bar. Warning signs of a fake site include inconsistent product images that look copied and pasted, as well as bad grammar and spelling errors. If anything seems suspicious, leave the site immediately.

Supporting local sellers can help avoid scams. Lindsay Schweitzer, who sells hand-carved cutting boards locally, said bargain boards found online often contain plastics that can be unhealthy. Candle maker Lavita Board sells her products at in-person shops where customers can see and smell items before purchasing.

This holiday season, shoppers should be vigilant about fakes and scams. Checking business reputations, scrutinizing sites, and buying local when possible can help prevent wasting money on poor quality or dangerous counterfeit products.