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Tips to shop safe as scammers looking to take advantage of product shortages

Cyber security tips for online Holiday shopping
Cyber security tips for online Holiday shopping
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Supply chain issues and mail delays are pushing more people to start their holiday shopping early, but the Better Business Bureau is reminding folks to shop safe and smart so that they do not become a victim of a scam.

Popular gift items that typically go out of stock due to high demand may be even tougher to find because of shortages.

Scammers use this as an opportunity to create fake websites and offer those items for sale when they don’t really have them.

“You really want to make sure you’re dealing with reputable companies and reputable retailers, so that you know that you’re getting legitimate goods that are going to be what either you want or what the person on your list wants,” Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Western Virginia, said.

Some red flags to look for to see if a website is fake is check for grammar mistakes, research the age of the domain and look for contact information.

Online purchase scams accounted for nearly 40 percent of all scams reported to the BBB last year. Experts say it could get even worse this year as scammers look to take advantage of supply chain issues and product shortages.

Wheeler says if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“I also would caution you of clicking on links in social media that maybe looks like something you were looking at on another site and all of a sudden it pops up on your social, and it’s a company name you’ve never heard of. You have no idea where you’re going,” she added.

Another good tip when shopping online is to use a credit card because there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to get your money back if you are scammed.

The Better Business Bureau has resources where you can report a situation to the site’s scam tracker to help other people from being scammed.

Here are some other tips from the BBB for your holiday shopping:

Know what products stores might run out of.

Millions of everyday products use microchips to function. Computers, gaming systems, smart appliances, cameras, and toys that feature light, sound, motion, or any kind of tech all use microchips, meaning many manufacturers are already struggling to keep up with the demand for their products. Think through your holiday list and identify must-haves that are impacted by the shortage.

Start shopping earlier than usual.

Don’t wait until Black Friday to start holiday shopping this year. Certain products may already be sold out by November, according to some retailers.

When you find a good deal, don’t wait to buy.

Good deals will be harder to find this year, so if you find a product in stock at a good price, take advantage right away.

Budget your holiday shopping without expecting sales.

Supply chain problems mean many retailers have had to pay more than usual for inventory and can’t offer the same bargain prices they did last year. In fact, many products that use microchips have already gone up in price, so plan your budget accordingly. This might mean buying fewer presents or organizing a secret Santa-style gift exchange.

Have a backup plan.

Because so many household items use microchip technology, some retailers already have products back ordered into 2022. Try to stay flexible this year. If you absolutely can’t get a gift you had in mind, you may need a Plan B. For example, if the toy you wanted for your kids is not available or too expensive, keep in mind that the present shortages only affect certain kinds of gifts. Plush toys, outdoor toys, and action figures sans electronic features should stay in stock and reasonably priced this year.

Shop local.

Support small businesses. Think outside the holiday gift box this season and give a service or gift cards to local business in our area to avoid returns of buying unnecessary items this holiday season.

You can find more “Shop Safe, Shop Smart” tips here.

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