CBS47 On Your Side: Online shopping scam hits Central California residents, companies in China after your money

CBS47 On Your Side

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer’s site.

How this scam works:

While many online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers.

Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts.

Many of these websites offer luxury items such as popular brands of clothing and electronics at very low prices.

Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but they will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.

That was the case for foothill resident, Fred Phelps, who sent $139 for a shed he saw advertised on Facebook.

“I said what the heck, $139 isn’t going to break me, so I went ahead and gave them my credit card number,” said Phelps.

Weeks later he received a notice stating he’d be notified when the shed is on the way.

But that was the last time he ever heard from them.

What concerns Fred is he saw the same shed, with the same picture being offered again on Facebook, but this time from a different company.

After doing some investigative work, Fred determined the companies are in China.

He just wants to warn others of the scam.

So what are the warning signs?

A product is advertised at an unbelievably low price, or advertised to have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true.

The other party insists on immediate payment, or payment by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. They may insist that you pay up-front for vouchers before you can access a cheap deal or a give-away.

The social media based store is very new and selling products at very low prices. The store may have limited information about delivery and other policies.

An online retailer does not provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details. The seller may be based overseas, or the seller does not allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.

Protect yourself:

Check if the website or social media page has a refund or returns policy, and that their policies sound fair. The better online shopping and auction sites have detailed complaint or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong.

Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact Investigative Reporter Erik Rosales and let him be

On Your Side.

Email erikrosales@cbsfresno.com