“Too good to be true.” BBB warns about 3 online businesses scams, offers safe shopping tips

The Better Business Bureau is warning Hudson Valley residents to be on the lookout for stores selling electronics online at low prices.
BBB officials say they have received reports about three online businesses: Discount Store Outlet, Net Discount Store, and Ediscountsnetwork. All three businesses operate similar-looking websites that advertise popular electronics such as phone chargers, earbuds, and video game equipment.
Consmers have complained that the sellers fail to deliver purchased items after payment has been sent in.
“Year after year, online purchase scams are the type of fraud most frequently reported to our ScamTrackerSM program,” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the Metro New York BBB.  “Don’t get pulled in by online deals that are too good to be true.”
BBB offers these tips for safe online shopping:
  • 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 without your knowledge. Look for - and carefully review - the fine print. 
  • Know the advertiser. 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. If a phone number is listed, call it to verify its legitimacy before your purchase. Check out retailers at BBB.org before you shop.
  • 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. Some links may be loaded with malware or lead to scam sites, subjecting you to potential identity theft.
  • Check a site’s security settings. While not a guarantee, 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 sure to locate and review the Security Policy on the site and understand how they will be protecting your information – do they use encryption?
  • Check the start date on unfamiliar websites. Copy the website’s URL and check it with an online WHOIS tool, to see where and when the website was registered. Be very cautious if a site was created only recently or appears to be based in another country.
  • Review the details. 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. Be wary of additional hidden fees that may not be transparently disclosed. 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. Check if you have the ability to opt-out from sharing your information with third parties. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.
  • 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 money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card. If a seller requires payment through wire transfer or pre-paid gifts cards only, that’s a huge red flag to just walk away.
  • 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 before placing your order and keep this documented with your purchase records. According to the FTC, when you shop online, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time. If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, they have to give you a revised shipping date, with the chance to either cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.
  • Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-malware, 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.
Consumers can visit BBB.org, as well as BBB.org/ScamTracker, to check out a business, learn more about scams, and find additional consumer tips.