Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving many retailers out of business. What’s bad for businesses often means sales for shoppers, but before you jump on deals, make sure you aren’t falling for a con. BBB Scam Tracker has received many reports about online “going-out-of-business” sales that either don’t exist or don’t live up to the hype.
How the scam works
You are scrolling through your Facebook feed or doing a web search when you come across an advertisement for a going-out-of-business sale. The company is closing because of COVID-19 and selling off their inventory at a great discount.
If you click on the ad or type in the promoted URL, it will lead you to a website selling anything from designer goods to electronics to novelty items. From looking at the photos, the products seem like a great deal.
But if you order something, what arrives isn’t what you thought you purchased. Frustrated shoppers report to BBB Scam Tracker that the products they receive are much worse quality than what was shown online. For example, one victim ordered $250 worth of “designer” clothes from a New York-based store. Instead, they received low quality items shipped from overseas. “What was supposed to be cotton and/or linen was the worst quality polyester,” they told BBB. “The clothes, in general, were nowhere close to the advertised quality on the website images. Definitely NOT the quality I paid for.”
Other times, scammers never intend to send you anything at all. They simply steal your credit card information when you are prompted to pay. These phony sites can also download malware onto your computer and give scammers access to your personal information, passwords, and more.
How to avoid fake sale scams
- Know where you shop. Be wary of purchasing items from online retailers with whom you are not familiar. Even if you are on the website of a reputable company, double check the web address before you make a purchase to be sure scammers haven’t redirected you to an imitation site.
- Use your credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you the advantage of being able to dispute fraudulent charges. This is the safest payment method for purchasing items online. Be warned, however, that your credit card company may not keep this up indefinitely. If you routinely shop at shady websites, at some point they may refuse to return your money.
For more information
For ways to protect yourself from scammers when shopping online, read BBB’s Tips for Smart Shopping Online at www.bbb.org/article/tips/14040-bbb-tip-smart-shopping-online. For more information about going-out-of-business sales and other issues that arise when a business closes, see BBB Tip: What to Do When a Business Closes… for Good at www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/17723-bbb-tip-what-to-do-when-a-business-closes.
If you’ve been the victim of an online shopping scam, warn other consumers by reporting the incident to BBB.org/ScamTracker.