Students lose hundreds from online shopping scams

JessBrusnahan

Buyer’s remorse is the worst, especially when you don’t even get what you paid for. Online scamming is so prevalent nowadays that a person can be cheated out of their money without even knowing it. Sometimes you remember looking at the site, and other times the scam comes out of nowhere. 

With the many advancements in technology in the past 10 years, especially cookies (which, when allowed on your browser, monitor your online actions), sites know more than ever about you. Google, Amazon and Facebook, three of the biggest power players in e-commerce, can suggest products similar to what you’ve purchased before. While most products are legitimate, buyers have to be aware of the risk of a scam. 

But how do you know if you’re being scammed? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Omaha’s website has a plethora of information. They offer tips on how to avoid sketchy sites in the first place. Signs that should make a customer skeptical include missing or faulty contact links, constantly glitching graphics and few to no reviews of specific products or the site overall. 

In addition, the BBB advises against online interactions, especially transactions, with “someone you have never met face-to-face,” whether that be on websites directly or through “unsolicited emails.” It is important to maintain your privacy online, so never share “personally identifiable information” in a transaction or over social media. 

Many reviews can be found on the BBB site, and a large number of businesses are accredited, or verified, by the BBB. If one is unable to find reviews of the site in question on the BBB site or on other sites, one good tool for checking a site’s validity is the BBB’s scam tracker, which updates daily to offer constant information for potential customers. 

Marian students have had plenty of experiences with online scams. Out of 219 total responses on the Network’s October Google Survey, 26 girls said they knew they had been scammed, and another 28 weren’t sure (owing to the mischievous nature of scams). 

The most popular sites students had been scammed by were Shein, Wish, and Etsy. When asked how much money they had lost from online scams, answers ranged from $10 or less to more than $2000. A few students shared their personal scamming experiences. 

Senior Emma Gunn lost $300 from a concert ticket scam on Craigslist. “I sent them half first, then the rest when they told me their bank account app wasn’t working,” Gunn said, remembering her “gut feeling that something wasn’t right.” When she realized what had happened, Gunn was torn on what to do. She knew she had lost the money for good and wouldn’t be able to get a refund, as “[the site’s] information…was completely fabricated.” Her advice: use a verified method of payment, and don’t hand your money out just because something excites you. 

Freshman Marin Momsen lost $92 from a gift card scam. When her purchases didn’t process, Momsen was worried, so she checked the card’s website and found out that “someone in Georgia paid their Cox Cable bills with my card.” Angry, she filed a claim with her bank and received a refund after three months. Her advice: don’t depend on online shopping, because not all situations end up as well as hers. 

Sophomore Meghan Bartness lost between $2,000-$3,000 from a used car scam. With such a large amount of money, the story had to be convincing, right? Bartness and her dad had been searching for cars and found one advertised on Facebook. 

After following up multiple times with no luck, as the phone number provided by the seller was disconnected and couldn’t be traced, Bartness knew she had been scammed. “I felt really sad just [because] I was really excited and very disappointed,” Bartness said. 

Her advice: make only small purchases online and view the item(s) face-to-face before you buy. 

Altogether, online scams have many layers. From the original onset to ending scam attempts to receive a refund, they affect more than just the seller and customer. If possible, follow up with your bank as well as the site concerned after you’ve been scammed; this is the best way to safely try to get your money back. But above all, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.  

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