Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sharp Rise in Online Retailer Complaints

The long lines for the newest iPhone showed that consumers are still willing to wait for the latest and greatest electronic device. However, many prefer to skip the line and jump online to find good discounts on electronics and other items. But before you do, Better Business Bureau is warning online shoppers to beware of questionable advertisements and phony websites.

BBB received six times more complaints nationally against online retailers in 2012 than 2011 – from 62 in 2011 to 347 complaints in 2012. Most consumers allege they were charged undisclosed fees and taxes, while others claim they were charged for a product they later discovered was out of stock and undeliverable.

When considering the purchase of an electronic device or any item from an online retailer, it’s important for consumers to do their research. Make sure the price advertised is specifically for the device you want and not just a similar version. Also, remember that not all websites are legitimate. Ensure the site is secure by looking for the “s” in https when entering your payment information.

BBB advises consumers to also look out for the following when planning to do business with an online retailer:

1) Advertised prices are much lower than retail. Everyone is looking for a bargain on electronics and scammers use tantalizingly low prices to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, be prepared to walk away.

2) Spelling and grammar. Many phony electronics websites are created by scammers overseas and you can spot them because they usually contain spelling and grammar mistakes.

3) Payment via wire transfer onlyScammers often ask victims to wire payments because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for electronics online. If the website turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.

4) Lack of information. Always try to find a seller’s physical address, not just a P.O. Box and phone number. Research the company’s name and website for additional information. Check for detailed information about the company including owner information and history of complaints.

5) Fraudulent security seals. When shopping online, you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business’s use of the seal is legitimate. You can typically do this by clicking on the seal which, if legitimate, will link you to a confirmation page on the certifying organization’s site. For BBB Accredited Businesses using the dynamic seal on their website, the clickable link will direct the consumer back to the company’s BBB Business Review.

How often do you shop online for business or personal reasons?

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