Shop online with caution during the holiday season

  • Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact the BBB at 800-222-8754.

The percentage of holiday sales made online is increasing every year and the pandemic will only accelerate that trend this holiday season.

The National Retail Federation predicts that overall sales will increase by 3.6 to 5.2 percent, while online and other non-store sales will increase by 20 to 30 percent.

Adobe Analytics predicts that online sales will increase by 33% and even more if there is another round of stimulus payments or if more physical stores are forced to close.

Pay close attention to which website is real

The crooks will try to get their share of the money from online sales. Online shopping scams account for 38% of all scams reported to the BBB this year, up from 24% in 2019. The lure of a bargain price was the main reason victims fell for the scam.

A high percentage said they did not visit the website before making a purchase. The good news is that many more are checking – we’ve seen a 316% increase in the number of consumers searching for online retailers on

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And what constitutes a scam is in the eye of the beholder. Our BBB has issued alerts regarding three local online retailers who are real businesses, but whose customers are complaining that they were scammed for not receiving their orders.

One sells shoes for toddlers, the other sells sneakers for all ages, and the other sells mountain bikes. The plaintiffs could have saved a lot of money and trouble by checking the companies’ records with the BBB.

Consumers who lose money through online shopping scams or unsavory businesses aren’t the only victims. These are dollars that can’t be spent with honest retailers and victims trust all websites less.

The BBB offers the following tips for safe shopping online:

  • Check the business with the BBB and read reviews online from other consumers. Look for the BBB seal which indicates that the company has met our standards for trust.
  • Beware of fake websites. Watch out for bad grammar and links that go nowhere or lead to pages with what appears to be generic information copied from another website. Don’t be fooled by professional photos.
  • Make sure the website is secure. Look for “https” in the URL and a small lock icon in the address bar. Do not enter credit card or personal information on a website with only “http” – it is not secure.
  • Beware if a website claims to have wanted products that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Use your credit card. If questionable charges appear later or if you did not receive what you ordered, you can dispute the charges with your credit card company. Never make purchases from online sellers giving them prepaid debit cards or transferring money to them.
  • Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you wish to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closing” items. Make sure you get a gift receipt so the recipient can return or exchange the item if needed.

Remember the old adage that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And understand that no matter how good the return policy looks, a scammer or a bad company won’t stick to it.

Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact the BBB at 800-222-8754.


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