Internet Criminals Use Fake Ecommerce Websites to Steal Thousands

SACRAMENTO, REGION, CA (MPG)  |  BBB Release

SACRAMENTO, REGION, CA (MPG) - Beginning in June of this year, consumers from across the United States began reporting that they were losing money to one of eight similar online retailers advertising a California address, including the websites: BestDealBaby.com, AutomotiveXX.com, Banozoo.com, BeautyCareDeal.com, ChangeAX.com, Yokooza.com, BestDealAppliances.com, and ElectroxDeal.com.

These ecommerce websites advertised a variety of merchandise which Better Business Bureau (BBB) found to be available for purchase from other online retailers, including one of a kind handmade products from members of the website etsy.com. Additionally, addresses advertised on the websites did not appear to be legitimate store fronts or warehouses and included apartment complexes and residences. Scammers often advertise fake addresses at which no one representing the alleged business is actually located.

Complainants reported to BBB that shortly after completing their purchase they received an automated email stating:

“Your order on [website URL] has been refunded. [. . .] While our website may have indicated an in-stock status, one or more items in your order were not in stock at the time your order was to be fulfilled. Your order cancellation will process today, and we are currently processing your refund. However, depending on your card issuer, it may take up to 7-21 days for the money to be available in your card balance.”

Despite the promise, consumers received neither their purchase nor a refund. In total, consumers who contacted BBB of Northeast California reported losing $5,753.51 to these scam websites.

In the past year BBB of Northeast California has received 102 reports of Online Purchase scams. These reports make up almost twenty percent of all scams reported in Northeast California, and are the number one scam reported in California and the U.S. overall. Considering the popularity of online shopping, it is not surprising that scammers have been taking advantage of the opportunity it presents.

BBB urges consumers to avoid becoming victims by verifying the validity of all ecommerce websites before making a purchase. A website may be a scam if:

  1. It was recently created. You can verify the website's creation date by checking the URL on the website, whois.com.

  2. It does not prominently display verifiable contact information, such as a phone number, email address, and a street address.

  3. The street address is fake, a home address, or belongs to a different business. Do an online search of the advertised address; you may be surprised.

  4. The price is too good to be true. Fake websites often lure potential victims with their amazingly low prices. If you know the product costs $500 everywhere else, and the website you are looking at has the exact same product for $150, it may be a scam.

  5. Other consumers have reported being scammed by the website. Check for other online reviews and search the business name and URL on bbb.org.

If you do decide to purchase from an online retailer, BBB suggests paying with a credit card, instead of a debit card. If the company fails to deliver the product, you can file a dispute with your credit card company. If you can’t tell whether an online retailer is legitimate, use the BBB Locator to contact your local Better Business Bureau.