Consumer Alert: Be Cautious When Considering Large Purchases Online
(HARTFORD) – During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are doing our best to maintain social distancing and do everything we can to avoid any unnecessary contact – and that means even more online shopping. In addition to purchasing everyday supplies, more people may be considering purchasing vehicles, or even committing to an apartment without an in-person visit.
Companies are advertising things like online tours, delivery of vehicles direct to your home, and more. Unfortunately – scammers also take advantage of these changes in our purchasing behavior.
If you’re thinking about making large purchases online, here’s what you should consider:
- Read reviews of any company before you do business with them, and search for the company name along with the word “fraud” or “scam”. Chances are, information about other people’s experiences will come up.
- Never pay in an untraceable form of payment like cash or wire transfer. Always use a credit card if you can, so that you can dispute the charges most easily, and have a record of your payment.
- Ensure that if you do need to enter payment information online, that you’re on a secure site that begins with https:// (the “s” means it’s secure).
- If you’re purchasing furniture, a vehicle, or even an apartment – try and see it before you make the purchase if you can do so safely. Many businesses can be open following certain safety guidelines. If you do most of your research online ahead of time, a quick, safe trip to a store, apartment, or dealership may save you from falling victim to fraud.
- Remember, if you’re at risk or immunocompromised – you should plan to stay home. You may consider sending a trusted friend or family member to check out a product for you.
- Like with any purchase – if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even now when we are seeing lots of deals and sales from retail outlets online – you can still tell when something looks suspect. Follow your instincts.
“Even during a pandemic, we still need to make purchases,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull, “A number of the purchases we need to make can also be costly. People may have planned to move for a job or changing family circumstances, or need to purchase a new car because of an unforeseen emergency. We encourage consumers to be on the look out for scam artists who may try to take advantage of them during this time – and to file a complaint with us if anything seems wrong.”
“Purchasing online can be a great way to stay safe and stay home during this pandemic, but it’s important to watch for possible scams. Make sure you know and trust the retailer you are dealing with. A quick online search along with the keywords scam or fraud can be revealing. Make sure you are using a secure form of payment, like a credit card. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Attorney General Tong.
“It’s always important to see a product first before making a large purchase,” said BBB Serving Connecticut President & CEO Paulette Scarpetti, “Rental scams have always succeeded by scammers creating excuses of why a potential tenant is not able to see a property. These excuses now could seem legitimate due to social distancing, making it even harder to depict a good deal from a fraudulent offer. Always thoroughly research a website, company or real estate broker before making any large purchases remotely.”
Consumers with complaints can file with DCP by visiting www.ct.gov/DCP/complaint.
Department of Consumer Protection
Lora Rae Anderson
(860) 247-8711 (cell)
Office of the Attorney General
Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut
(860) 384-5875 (cell)