More consumers are turning to the internet to purchase anything and everything. With the increase of online boutique-type stores, we are seeing an increase in complaints, negative reviews and scams.

In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received more than 3 million inquiries on online retailers. The BBB also received over 29,000 complaints and over 10,000 scam reports related to online shopping. The BBB reminds consumers to take time to evaluate products, services and the businesses that provide them, especially if you’ve never engaged with the company before.

One of the best ways to avoid online shopping scams is to make your purchases from the sites of brand-name retailers you already know and trust. Sometimes you can find the same or very similar products with a company that has a history of doing business honorably.

The BBB offers the following tips to consider when shopping online:

Never rush to make a purchasing decision. When shopping online, be sure to take your time. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites.

Read the fine print. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Review the return policy. While many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.

Examine the website. Check a site’s security settings — its URL (web address) should start with https:// — and should include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page. Also make sure the website is spelled correctly and be on the lookout for “scammer grammar” on the page.

Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that’s a big red flag that it may be a scam.

Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.

Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

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