ORLANDO, Fla. - Data from the Central Florida branch of the Better Business Bureau shows online shopping scams increase during the holiday season.
Holly Salmons, BBB serving Central Florida president, said online shopping scams are a growing trend for their ease.
Disyah Stephens was scammed on Facebook as she was trying to buy another couch for cheap.
"I looked at her profile," Stephens said. "It’s a mother with her daughter, probably. It just looked so homey and welcoming. It doesn’t scream, you know, scammer."
Stephens sent the scammer 40 dollars for a "delivery fee." Alarms didn’t start going off until the money went to another name on the payment app, Zelle.
"I don’t think she’s even real because the guy’s name is ‘Stuart’ that I sent the money to," Stephens said. "She’s probably a ‘he!’"
The couch was never delivered, and Stephens was blocked by the scammer.
"I feel like, ‘Oh my God, I feel so dumb,’ but sending more money is actually going to be more dumb," Stephens said.
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Stephens' bank got her money back within a few days. However, as proof of how determined scammers are to steal money, Stephens said this is the second time she was targeted.
A few years ago, she fell victim to a Bitcoin scheme that started on LinkedIn. That time it was $4,000.
"You just really need to be careful," Stephens said.
Salmons said small scams can quickly snowball, so Stephens was right to not send any more money beyond the "delivery fee."
"While the initial transaction may seem like a small transaction, the risk can also become the fact that you’ve given your financial information, credit card information, your address to a mystery person or to a scammer," Salmons said.
Of everyone who has lost money since 2021 to fraud, the Federal Trade Commission said about one-quarter of cases started online. It’s quick money and big money for scammers, amounting to nearly $3 billion in just the last few years.
Salmons said people are sometimes too comfortable buying online and miss red flags.
"The hot item that everyone is looking for, and you find someone online on social media who is offering it at a great deal, or they have lots of it, they have an unlimited supply, those are huge red flags," Salmons said.
Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have portals online to report suspected scammers with ways to recognize a trickster’s work. Protecting yourself on social media is key, so remember to:
- Do a little snooping on the seller.
- Check their social media account to make sure it’s real.
- If the seller wants to communicate or pay outside the social media platform, let that be another red flag.
- Check the comments on the post to see if anyone has a negative review of the seller, or flat-out says it’s a scam.
Of course, in every case, limit the sharing of personal information. It's also advised that you use a prepaid gift card, so scammers don’t have your personal information, and if you’re going to meet someone in person, do it at a police station where there is a designated area for exchanges.