BBB warns of scammers using fake websites

Websites look like legitimate websites offering holiday bargains
BBB warns of scammers using fake websites

This year more than $2 billion was spent on Cyber Monday, and even though that’s a 16 percent increase over last year, there’s also an increasing number of fake websites targeting shoppers.

The scammers are drawing people in with the promise of a bargain. They present a website that looks like a legitimate online company, offer up a product at a great price and wait for shoppers to show them their credit card numbers.

The Better Business Bureau said the scam started showing up last year around Cyber Monday with a fake website.

This year as online sales continue to grow, so is the amount of fake websites.

“Companies will do that. They will come up with really realistic looking websites, and then they will actually send out an email saying, ‘Get Packer apparel at 50 percent off, click here.’ You go to the website, it looks real, you click the stuff, you add it to your shopping cart, you put in your credit card number, then nothing happens. Well all that happened is they took the number and ran with it,” Madison College marketing professor Steve Noll said.

Michael Sharp, a Madison resident and an IT specialist, frequently shops online and almost fell victim to the scam of a fake website.

Sharp was looking for Christmas gifts for his children, specifically high end electronics for a good deal. He found one site after a Google search that gave low prices for electronic items. The site seemed credible, making Sharp think it was a good idea to purchase the items.

“A couple of days later, I got an e-mail saying their card processing was down and could I please send the payment minus the transmission fee to a Western Union recipient, and that set off the alarm bells,” said Sharp.

Sharp tried to call the company, but the phone number provided was out of order. He immediately called his bank and told them not to allow any purchases made for this business.

The best advice the BBB has is to make sure the website you are shopping on is secure. A red flag that you’re on a fake website is if you don’t see contact information for the company or a privacy notice.

“A good price on something does not matter at all if the product never ships, so knowing who you’re dealing with is number one. Being able to trust that vendor is super, super important,” said Kimberly Hazen, Southwest regional director of BBB.