National Consumers League

Meet the top ten scams - #2 Internet merchandise sales scams

This is part two of our 10-part series taking a closer look at the top scams of 2012. The number two scam reported to NCL’s Fraud Center in 2012 was Internet merchandise sales scams. To see an overview of our complete report on the top scams of the year, visit our Web site at nclnet.org.

The second most common type of scam reported to the National Consumers League this year were general merchandise sales - online sales in which purchased goods are misrepresented or are never delivered. These scams come in many different forms. One of the most commonly-reported types of Internet merchandise scams involved fake pharmaceuticals, such as diet pills and male-enhancement pills. Other popular variations on this scam involve fraudsters creating realistic-looking e-commerce sites advertising discounts on high-dollar merchandise such as jewelry or electronics. While these scams are difficult to stop, consumers should take some of the following precautions to avoid this theft:

  • Obtain a physical addresses and a phone number for the company or person you are buying from. Call the number to ensure it is legitimate.
  • Be skeptical of extremely low prices compared to other sites selling similar goods.
  • Pay with credit cards when buying something online since fraudulent purchases can be disputed with your card issuer. Remember to promptly report suspicious activity on your credit card bill since there is a limited window of time to dispute a charge.
  • Do not give out sensitive information such as a Social Security number or a debit card a PIN number when purchasing merchandise online.
  • Keep records of sales by printing out receipts or saving them on your computer.

For more information on general merchandise sales scams, visit Fraud.org.