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Scams in online sales of COVID supplies: when orders don’t arrive

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When local stores ran out of the supplies we needed to manage COVID-19, many of us turned to online sources. According to a new Data Spotlight, scammers ran online sites and took orders for scarce items, but didn’t deliver. In April and May, more people reported problems with online shopping to the FTC than in any other months on record, and more than half of them said they never got what they ordered.

Reports show that early in the pandemic, shady sellers put up websites offering hard-to-find products. People ordered facemasks, sanitizer, toilet paper, thermometers, and gloves. When customers asked about their orders, scammers said the pandemic was causing shipping delays, and then stopped responding. When people reported undelivered orders to the FTC in April and May, facemasks were the #1 missing item.

Reports about online shopping issues aren’t new for the FTC. In fact, the number of those reports has grown every year since 2015. In 2019, people filed more than 86,000 reports about online shopping issues, including reports about orders that never arrived. People have reported losing a total of almost $420 million dollars related to online shopping issues since 2015.

To avoid problems when you shop online:

• Check out a seller before you buy. Type the website or company name into a search engine with words like “scam,” “complaint,” or “review.”
• Pay by credit card. If you’re charged for an order you never got, contact your credit card company and dispute the charge.
• Keep copies of the product description, price, receipt, and emails between you and the seller, including messages about shipping delays.

If you see a scam, or want to report a problem about online shopping, please tell the FTC at FTC.gov/Complaint.

Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC

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