Online purchase scams spike as a result of pandemic, BBB research finds

Published by Cyber Flows on

Online purchase scams have spiked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research by the Better Business Bureau.

A whopping 80.5% of consumers reporting online purchase scams in 2020 lost money as a result of those scams, up from 71% in 2015, when the BBB began tracking data.

The scammers took advantage of consumers’ need for in demand products like hand sanitizer, masks, toilet paper and cleaning products.

The top reason people lost money to this type of scam was the enticement of a sales price, according to the BBB. Scammers offered high demand products at a significantly reduced dollar amount, which then increased the desire to purchase the item.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, the second biggest motivating factor to search and purchase items online was availability. According to the survey, more than half (53%) of the respondents said they weren’t aware they were a target of a scam until they didn’t receive the product they ordered.

According to the BBB research, consumers who lost money to online purchase scams used Facebook, Google, a direct merchant website, Instagram, or pop-up ads on social media when they were actively shopping.

“This was something we had to examine more closely,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “People will continue to actively shop online in order to reduce their exposure and keep their families safe. As this virus continues and circumstances change, scammers will try to take advantage.”

The 2020 Online Purchase Scams Report examines findings from an August 2020 survey of 1,549 U.S. and Canadian consumers reporting online purchase scams to BBB Scam Tracker.

People ages 35-44 were more susceptible and likely to be victimized, while younger consumers are more susceptible than older adults. However, older adults tend to lose more money than younger adults for online purchase scams.

“These critical findings can help guide our scam prevention outreach to those most vulnerable to these scam types,” said Tim Maniscalo, Central Indiana BBB President & CEO. “Online purchase scams don’t just affect those who lose money. For every victim who lost money, that meant less income to buy groceries, pay the utility bill, and for some the loss of personal information that could lead to identity theft.”


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