Miss. Better Business Bureau sees sharp increase of fake retail sites

Miss. Better Business Bureau sees sharp increase of fake retail sites
Miss. Better Business Bureau seeing sharp increase of fake retail websites (Source: BBB)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Online shopping may be hotter than ever right now, but Mississippi’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a warning before you fill up your cyber retail cart.

The organization says it’s uncovered over a dozen fake websites in the last four months using bogus Mississippi addresses.

“These scammers are taking merchandise off other sites to build a phony retail site, then using abandoned shopping malls in Jackson as their address,” John O’Hare, CEO, Better Business Bureau said. “In one case, they used the secretary of state’s address and put a fake suite number.”

The BBB says don’t fall prey.

Here are five things O’Hare said you can do to ensure the retail website is secure:

  • Look for a padlock in the upper left-hand corner of the search bar. If it’s unlocked, it’s unsecure.
Miss. BBB seeing sharp increase of fake retail websites
Miss. BBB seeing sharp increase of fake retail websites (Source: WLBT)
  • Make sure you have anti-virus protection and avoid pop-ups
  • See if the business has a physical location and try to view a storefront image on maps
  • Make sure there’s a return policy and contact information
  • Don’t use a debit or pre-paid card; use a secured credit card

The BBB forwards all complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 and FBI Spokesman, Brett Carr says the punishment varies depending on the crime and the intent.

“Is the website selling fake or fraudulent products? Is the website selling products and not delivering?” Carr asked. “Is the website set up for phishing or stealing personal information? All of these factors and more determine the types of crimes that are committed.”

In 2019 alone, IC3 received nearly a half-million complaints about internet crime with reported losses of more than $3.5 Billion to individuals and businesses, and 2020 is expected to be higher.

The National Retail Federation reports eCommerce sales are up 36.7 percent year-over-year right now as many people are expected to depend on digital shopping to make many of their holiday purchases.

Online prices may be lower from retailers eager to move stock, but officials urge extreme caution, to avoid becoming a victim in their next investigation.

“People who aren’t that savvy are doing more online shopping and you have to be careful. It’s easy to end up on a fake site due to the many ads and pop-ups because of the way search engines trace your steps,” O’Hare said.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of internet fraud, report it to the BBB or IC3 IC3.

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