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"Scam from start to finish:" Signs to look out for to avoid buying from a fraudulent website

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) – Five people across the country filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about online purchase scams from a website that told customers it was based in Southeast Wisconsin.

It was called Mareag.com and it sold items like Google Chrome Books and smokers at discounted prices.

“I am impressed with the length these people went to develop their site. It was beautifully done to make sure it looked legitimate,” said Neil Ernst from Oregon.

In October 2017, Neil Ernst from Oregon and Rebecca Warren from New Jersey purchased from the site and never got the items they paid for. 

“I went back to try to contact them and everything was gone,” said Warren.

Mareag.com had a virtual office based in Waukesha, Wisconsin and phone number signs it was an actual website. 

But there was one major red flag, the company asked for payment Mareag.com wanted Amazon gift cards and PlayStation Points.

“It was a scam from start to finish. They got fake information on a website, fake images, said they would deliver. They didn’t have anything they just took people’s money," said Jim Temmer, President and CEO of BBB serving Wisconsin. 

Last year, 4,300 people across the U.S. filed complaints with the BBB Scam Tracker about online purchasing scams.

Experts say there are some things online shoppers can do to spot a fraudulent website.

“If you are suspicious you should make sure they have a real address, not a post office box. They should have a phone number and an email service that isn’t at Gmail or at Hotmail or any other free email service,” said Dr. Thomas Kaczmarek, Director of Center Cyber Security Awareness and Defense at Marquette University.

WEB EXTRA: AVOIDING FRAUDULENT WEBSITES from CBS 58 News on Vimeo.

The BBB also recommends these tips:

  • Steep Discounts – You can do a price comparison by visiting other websites of other retailers to see if they are offering similar deals for the same product.
  • Poor website design and sloppy English – Unprofessional-looking websites with generic designs are huge red flags that the site can’t be trusted. Look for strange wording or spelling since it is common for these sites to be run out of the country.
  • A suspect domain name – Most retail websites use simple URLs. If there are extra words like “deals,” “sales,” or “super discounts,” there is a chance the website is a scam.
  • The website is newly created – If a retail website has not been around for very long, that is a red flag. Most established companies have been on the Internet for years.
  • Does not accept credit or debit card – Be cautious is the seller wants you to pay by money order, bitcoin, cash or a prepaid gift card. Reputable websites will have you pay using secure methods like credit cards or PayPal.

If you are victim of an online scam, be sure to file a complaint with the BBB or Internet Crime Complaint Center with the FBI.  

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