The Most Common Online Shopping Scam (and How to Avoid It)

Updated 08/31/17
Brooke Testoni

Given the average American spends over 10 hours a day on a computer, phone, or smart device, it's surprising that there are still scams that trick regular online shoppings. According to the Better Business Bureau, thousands of Americans get duped by a simple but effective trick.

The scam involves being taken to a website that is a near-exact replica of a popular brand, such as Pandora, which recently fell prey to scammers. The site claims to offer heavily discounted products, but when shoppers purchase goods, they are hit with international fees and sent poor imitations.

Cheap knockoffs aren't the only issue with this online shopping scam. Security expert David DeMille told CNBC that a lot of people don't even receive a product. "There are a lot of websites that are not even shipping a fake product, they're just taking money and running," he said.

Next time you see a great deal online, pause—these are the signs it might be a scam:

1. The discount seems too good to be true. DeMille recommends using price comparison website before adding to cart. "They vet the companies they're working with, so they're all legitimate," he says.

2. The site hasn't existed for long. Use Archive's Wayback Machine to check new domains. "It could be a big red flag if within the past year the website came into being."

3. You can't pay with a credit or debit card. Be wary of sites that require you to pay by money order or other non-legitimate payment methods.

Have you fallen for an online shopping scam? Tell us what happened in the comments.

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