SAN ANTONIO — Many people are choosing to lean away from in-person shopping this holiday season, instead opting to do all their shopping online.
Experts say online sales could hit $10 billion this Black Friday, and reach nearly $190 billion over the course of the holiday season.
“It’s turned (into) cyber-November,” said Jason Meza, regional director for the the Better Business Bureau. “There is a 28% shopping increase online (compared to) last year.”
As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues across the world, people are turning to online shopping. Hiding in the cyber-shadows is a new cohort of schemers looking to steal Christmas from unknowing consumers.
“People start online, and that’s good. They do the research. They compare prices online. That’s the best scenario,” Meza said. “But where they end up is the problem. If they end up going to a third-party website, it’s unverified. It’s unsecure. That could lead to problems.”
The Federal Trade Commission reports that cyber-crime involving social media has more than tripled in the last year.
Meza said the trend is also surging in south Texas.
“You want that PlayStation5, you want that Nintendo Switch—that’s a hard-to-find item this year,” said Meza. “'We've got it for less, click here,' that's the trap. I think that's a lot of times where people get turned off and they say, ‘I'm going to go here and check it out.’ They end up getting caught.”
Meza said to beware of deep discounts, and don’t trust those ads on social media that seem too good to be true. You mostly likely could end up on an imitation website.
“You may be searching for that hard-to-find gift, and may end up looking on websites that are unsecure, unknown, very basic sites. Just know these are copycat sites and they emerge and they disappear just as quickly."
Meza said to stay safe when online shopping, and advised that consumers should also use a credit card as they offer added protections and dispute resolutions. He said to be cautious when using digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards or other non-traceable methods of payment.
He said consumers should always be aware of their “virtual surroundings.”
“It's just like when you go into a store. You guard your wallet, you guard things that (you) have physically,” Meza said. “We say the same thing online: When you're shopping, guard your wallet, guard your cash app, all that stuff that's tied to your bank account. Your credit card information.”
For more tips on how to stay safe this holiday shopping season, visit the BBB website.