Online Shopping Causing a Wave of Problems
For many of us, ordering supplies from the comfort of home has been a great way to stay safe during the pandemic. But new data are showing a sharp increase in consumer complaints about online purchases.
Record numbers of consumers have registered complaints to the Federal Trade Commission about online shopping in the months since the coronavirus spread around the nation, according to the FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight.
The agency received more than 34,000 such complaints from the public in April and May. More than half the complaints—in excess of 18,000—were about products that were not delivered. Facemasks, sanitizer, toilet paper, thermometers and gloves were the main examples cited as products that didn’t show up. In May alone, the number of items never delivered represented a 200 percent increase over the Christmas season.
Complaints about online shopping have been rising for years, with a growing number of consumers claiming fraud and other issues. But officials said the recent spike stands out dramatically. The FTC offers the following tips to protect yourself while gaining the convenience of shopping on your computer or smartphone:
- Before placing your order, check out the company by typing its name in a search engine with words like or “scam” or “complaint.”
- Confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number.
- Watch out for unfamiliar sites selling products that are in short supply or offering name-brand goods at steep discounts.
- Pay with a credit card, and contact your credit card company to dispute the charges if a seller doesn’t deliver your goods or they are not as promised.
You can get more consumer information about online shopping, and guidance on how to dispute a credit charge, at ftc.gov/onlineshopping. Scams should be reported to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Finally, remember to be vigilant about keeping an eye out for erratic charges on your and your loved ones’ bank, investment, and credit card statements. Getting alerts with respect to older parents, especially as they continue to shelter in place, will help shut down scams at their inception. And you can do this—from a distance. EverSafe now has a special COVID-19 hotline you can call to report or discuss suspicious offers or activity.