GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Online scams are something consumers are going to want to watch out for this holiday season, according to the Better Business Bureau in Western Michigan.
Across the state, 373 scams were reported to the BBB (and verified) in 2022 in total. Of the 373 scams, 128 of them were online purchase scams. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022, 63 scams were reported to BBB in Western Michigan, which covers 38 counties in the western half of the state.
“We’ve just seen a huge increase in people buying things online, the catch that comes with that is knowing whether the deal is a true holiday deal,” Katie Grevious, BBB marketing & community relations manager said. “Knowing the difference between when it’s too good to be true, or it’s an actual deal on a real product is where we’re going to start to see a lot of people falling victim for scams.”
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said online and phone scams continue to be a problem in Kent County. The scammers will often pretend to be from an organization or someone you know, offering a prize or a problem. The sheriff’s office added that scammers will tell people to pay in a specific way and try to get them to act fast.
“If you receive an unexpected request or demand for money, please stop and question it,” Eric Brunner, Kent County Sheriff’s public information officer, said. “Pause, call a trusted friend or family member, and run the information by them. The elderly are often targeted in these scams and are continually pressured.”
The BBB listed a few precautions people can take to keep their money safe. One of the main things they stressed was to make online purchases with a credit card. According to BBB research, people who pay with a credit card are less likely to lose money.
Make sure to research the websites you are buying from. Check for things like bad grammar, the age of the domain, and search for contact information. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “HTTP” it is NOT secure. Look for a small lock icon on the address and “https” in the URL — the extra “s” is for “secure.”
The BBB also said to beware of text and email marketing.
“If you’re receiving a text message from let’s say, a retail business that you’ve never done business with before, that’s a huge red flag,” Grevious said. “If you receive any sort of marketing that is soliciting you to get a deal saying, ‘You got to click on this link,’ go to the actual website itself. We want to avoid clicking on those links because scammers are really good at pretending to be other people.”
Anyone who finds they have been scrammed should get in touch with their financial institution right away to see what options are available. The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said anyone who has fallen victim to a scam should contact law enforcement. Another good resource people can try is the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.