Wisconsin Better Business Bureau
Press Release

BBB Scam Alert: Misleading going-out-of-business sales sell counterfeit goods


By - Sep 18th, 2020 07:05 am

Milwaukee, Wis. – Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving many retailers out of business. What’s bad for businesses often means sales for shoppers, but before you jump on deals, make sure you aren’t falling for a con. BBB Scam Tracker has gotten many reports about online “going-out-of-business” sales that either don’t exist or don’t live up to the hype.

How the Scam Works

You are scrolling through your Facebook feed or doing a web search when you come across an advertisement for a going-out-of-business sale. The company is closing because of COVID-19 and selling off its inventory at a great discount.

If you click on the ad or type in the promoted URL, it will lead you to a website selling anything from designer goods to electronics to novelty items. From looking at the photos, the products seem like a great deal.

But if you order something, what arrives isn’t what you thought you purchased.  Frustrated shoppers report to BBB Scam Tracker that the products they receive are much worse quality than what was shown online. For example, one victim ordered $250 worth of “designer” clothes from a New York-based store. Instead, they received low-quality items shipped from overseas. “What was supposed to be cotton and/or linen was the worst quality polyester,” they told BBB. “The clothes, in general, were nowhere close to the advertised quality on the website images. Definitely NOT the quality I paid for.”

Other times, scammers never intend to send you anything at all. They simply steal your credit card information when you are prompted to pay. These phony sites can also download malware onto your computer and give scammers access to your personal information, passwords, and more.

How to Avoid Fake Sale Scams

  • Know where you shop. Be wary of purchasing items from online retailers with whom you are not familiar. Even if you are on the website of a reputable company, double-check the web address before you make a purchase to be sure scammers haven’t redirected you to an imitation site.
  • Look for a secure connection and a privacy policy. Before you enter your personal information on any website, check for a secure connection. To do this, make sure the URL begins with “https://” and includes a lock icon on the purchase page. HTTPS ensures that a user’s internet experience is secure as they use their computer to browse the web. The lack of a privacy policy is also a red flag.
  • Use your credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you the advantage of being able to dispute fraudulent charges. This is the safest payment method for purchasing items online. Be warned, however, that your credit card company may not keep this up indefinitely. If you routinely shop at shady websites, at some point they may refuse to return your money.

For More Information

For ways to protect yourself from scammers when shopping online, read BBB’s Tips for Smart Shopping Online. For more information about going-out-of-business sales and other issues that arise when a business closes, see BBB Tip: What to Do When a Business Closes… for Good.

If you’ve been the victim of an online shopping scam, warn other consumers by reporting the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

Sign up for BBB Scam Alerts

Always look for businesses that follow BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.

Mentioned in This Press Release

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