ST. LOUIS – Ahead of the holiday shopping season, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers about online retail fraud.
Lindsay Pearson never imagined her daughter’s request for a pink stuffed animal she saw on TikTok would have created so many problems.
“She caught me when I was working. I was a little busy. She really wanted it,” Pearson said. “So, I went online and rushed through the order to get it out of the way and get it ordered.”
The toy she thought she was buying was supposed to weigh five pounds.
“When we got the package, and it said, “Weighs less than one pound,” I figured we were probably scammed or sent the wrong product at least,” Pearson said. “We opened it up. It was smushed down, and when we took it out, it was just a regular stuffed animal with no weighting on it.”
When Pearson contacted the company about a return, she said they told her it would cost $35 to send it back. She only paid $25 for the toy.
“I’m not sure how I should spend more money to send it back to get back my refund,” Pearson said. “We’d actually be losing money to send it back.”
“It’s just very sophisticated in the ways they’re trying to insert themselves into the process,” said Brian Edwards, an international investigator for the Better Business Bureau.
Edwards shared this story of another online fraud case reported to the BBB.
“They signed on to what they thought was Ticketmaster, but this was actually a spoof website that scammers had made that looked just like Ticketmaster, brought them through the exact process like they were buying tickets on there,” he said. “And they wound up losing thousands of dollars buying tickets for the US Open.”
Edwards said phony websites, pricing that is too good to be true, and schemes to bleed more money out of consumers after purchases are some of the tactics scammers are using to cash in.
“If they convince the person to do that, another charge will pop up, and another charge will pop up,” he said. “We’ve seen people lose thousands of dollars that way. If you don’t know the seller you’re buying from, look up reviews. Google the pictures they have of the product and see if that picture was used on a different website.”
Edwards said paying with a credit card is a consumer’s last line of defense.
“Credit card companies are much better than any other payment processor in being willing to grant chargebacks for when people are scammed out of their money,” he said.
That is how Pearson got her money back.
“Do your homework. Just Google it,” she said. “Take an extra few minutes to see what else is out there and see if there’s any complaints out there before you go and buy it.”
Pearson said she hopes sharing her story will prevent other consumers from getting scammed.