CBS 58 Investigates: Surge in online shopping scams during pandemic

CBS 58 Investigates: Surge in online shopping scams during pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As people stay home during the pandemic, online shopping numbers continue to soar, and so does the number of people getting ripped off.

The Federal Trade Commission reports more online shopping complaints in the months since the pandemic hit than any other months on record. There were more than 15,000 in April and nearly 19,000 in May. More than half of those consumers say they didn’t receive their order at all.

One consumer who says she did not get what she paid for, is Terri Cleveland. She ordered a Gucci bag on the consignment site Tradesy for about $800. Cleveland says what arrived, was a fake. She says it was not the same quality as a real Gucci bag and had a fake serial number.

“It was a number and it started 0123456789 and I’m looking like no, those are not authentic numbers,” Cleveland said.  

Cleveland filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

“Because so many people are shopping online and they’re at home, we have seen a huge increase in these kind of activities,” said Jim Temmer, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin.

And with the pandemic forcing many companies out of business, Temmer says one scam they’re seeing often is fake “going out of business” sales.

“We’ve got scammers who put out the fake websites, saying they’re going out of business, you can get that $500 pair of shoes for $50,” Temmer said.

Experts say one way the scammers will create sites that look like big name retailers or claim to sell designer items and the only difference is they switch the spelling by a letter or two. But you can tell if the site is safe by checking that the website address begins with “https://” and make sure there is a padlock in the address bar which means it’s safe to enter personal information.

“They [scammers] can send it out so cheaply to millions of people, so if one-tenth of one percent of the population responds to a scam, they’re making millions of dollars,” Temmer said.

Tradesy has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. Cleveland says after she took to social media and contacted the BBB, she did get a refund.

Meanwhile, Tradesy maintains the bag is real. In a statement, a spokeswoman said, “We looked into Terri’s claim, and are confident in our original assessment that the Gucci bag is authentic, for several reasons:

  1. The seller and item passed multiple security and authentication checks, both automated and human, that are required for listing designer goods on Tradesy.
  2. The seller of this item is a trusted, longtime Tradesy selling partner with a large reputable business whose supply chain we have vetted. This seller has made more than 1,200 successful sales on Tradesy with zero prior authenticity claims.
  3. Our expert authenticators physically inspected the bag once it was returned, and affirmed that it is authentic, based on multiple validated key markers of authenticity for the Gucci brand.

Nonetheless, we were happy to make an exception to our return policy and issue a full refund to Terri once she made clear how dissatisfied she was with receiving site credit. We will always do what we can to make our customers happy.”

But Cleveland says she is done shopping consignment sites.

“I would not shop those sites ever again,” Cleveland said. “I normally wouldn’t have, but you know, since COVID, we’re at home, bored.”

Experts recommend when you online shop, use a credit card because you can dispute the charges with your credit card company and hopefully get your money back.

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