The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reporting a sharp increase in fraud relating to health and safety items like face masks and paper products.
Since the beginning of March, many purchasers have described paying online stores for face masks and toilet paper but never receiving the products that they ordered. Scammers took their money as well as their credit card and personal information, and then ignored them by cutting off all contact and refusing to answer questions. In many cases they have even taken steps to close or deactivate their online store websites.
Before ordering from an unfamiliar online store, consider the following:
- Check out the company or product by typing their name in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what other people say about them. Read the seller’s description of the product carefully. If the seller has name-brand goods at steeply discounted prices, they are likely fake.
- Look at the terms of the sale. Calculate the total purchase price, including taxes, shipping and handling. Find out when you can expect your delivery. By law, sellers should ship your order within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t state a time. If you have to return the item, can you get a refund? Who pays for return shipping? Is there a restocking fee?
- Pay by credit card. You will get protections under federal law, so you don’t have to pay for merchandise you ordered but never received. If a business charged your account too soon, and didn’t deliver the merchandise on time, you can dispute the billing error and report it to your credit card company.
If you have a problem with an online purchase, you can try to work it out with the seller. However, you also have the right to dispute a billing error directly with the credit card issuer.
If you suspect a scam, be sure to submit a complaint to the FTC at ftccomplaintassitant.gov.