Does that online deal look too good to be true? It’s probably fake

Heather L. Whitley
·5 min read

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Don’t fall victim to fake! Shop safely this holiday season (Photo: Getty)
Don’t fall victim to fake! Shop safely this holiday season (Photo: Getty)

One of the words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2020 is “Deepfake: an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.” While most may associate this term with politics and social media, there’s another form of fake putting online shoppers at risk: fake websites touting phony deals.

Hackers know how much shoppers love finding that hot ticket item at a rock bottom price. And a recent study by the Better Business Bureau proves it. The study shows price is the number one reason scam victims decide to click and purchase. “If you get an email or see an advertisement about something with a price that is less than half of what you would expect to pay, you should be suspicious,” Dr. Lorrie Cranor, Director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University warns Yahoo Life. “Especially if it is being sold by a vendor you are not familiar with.”

Find the fake with McAfee Antivirus Software

One way to combat shopping scams is to install an antivirus software program like McAfee Multi Access. A single subscription protects up to five of your devices from malware, ransomware, and spyware attacks. The program warns you about risky websites, blocks potential viruses and even locks and wipes your data if your device is lost or stolen. A leader in antivirus software, McAfee helps protect 80 percent of the Fortune 100 companies and 87 percent of the world’s largest banks.

Shop it: McAfee Multi Access, free 30-day trial, then $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

Waiting on a delivery? If you shopped on a fake website, that package may never arrive (Photo: Getty)
Waiting on a delivery? If you shopped on a fake website, that package may never arrive (Photo: Getty)

Fake websites just don’t deliver

Dr. Cranor says one of the biggest threats to consumers is scammers who collect payments for products that never arrive. In fact, the BBB says 73 percent of shoppers who submit payments on a phony website never receive the product they paid for. If you think about it, it’s an easy tactic for a scammer to do. Because it’s really easy to create a professional-looking website in this day and age,” Melissa Lanning Trumpower, the Executive Director of the BBB’s Institute for Marketplace Trust tells Yahoo Life. “It’s not a lot of work, they’re just collecting money.”

McAfee Multi Access can help. One subscription protects up to five devices including PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. Try the 30-day free trial—and after that, it’s just $4.99 a month.

The Better Business Bureau’s Online Purchase Scam Report not only examines these threats but also informs shoppers about what they can do to protect themselves.

Their best piece of advice? Do your homework. “Those who did not do research on a particular website or a business using an independent source like BBB or Google, 81 percent of them lost money,” says Trumpower. “So if you don’t know this business really well, or this website really well, take a few extra minutes and go on an independent source and do a little research and make sure it’s legitimate before you click that link and enter a payment.”

Researching the right way

But how exactly do you research a website to determine if it’s fake? The Better Business Bureau says one of the easiest ways is to see what other consumers are saying. “Go to www.BBB.org and look and see what their profile looks like and see if there are any complaints,” Trumpower suggests. “You can do a Google search and there are other search engines that can guide you to complaints. If people are starting to get ripped off by a business, people will go online and talk about it.”

However, she points out that comments are not the same as complaints. “Some people will look at comments if you’re on social media, but you really should just get off that platform and go somewhere else and do a fresh search to find out if it’s legitimate.”

Another handy tool is researching the actual age of the website in question. Trumpower says, “if it’s really new, that’s something that’s just another red flag. Because, if it hasn’t been up very long, it may be a temporary scam.”

Pay it forward and keep other shoppers safe, too

Now that you’re armed with the tools and information to shop safely, help others do the same. The Better Business Bureau has a scam tracker that allows U.S. consumers to see what types of scams are being reported and where, on an easy-to-navigate color-coded map. “It’s really important to get those reports out there,” Trumpower says, “because we’re able to then share those reports with law enforcement, and then they are pulling all of those folks together to pursue them and try to shut them down.”

Even then, Trumpower says it’s very hard for scam victims to get any money back. So before you fall prey to a fake website, educate and protect yourself and your devices to ensure safe shopping this season.

Shop it: McAfee Multi Access, try this free 30-day trial, then just $4.99 a month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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