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Sat, May 08

FTC Warning: Scammers offer facemasks but don’t deliver

Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, consider these tips below from the FTC to help avoid a scam. (PNI illustration)

Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, consider these tips below from the FTC to help avoid a scam. (PNI illustration)

The Federal Trade Commission warns that when there is a high demand online for health and safety items, like facemasks and paper products, that's what scammers will pretend to sell.

Since the beginning of March, dozens of people, including healthcare workers, have told the FTC they paid online stores for facemasks and toilet paper but didn’t get anything. Most people said the scammers took their money and then ghosted them by cutting off all contact, refusing to answer questions, or closing or deactivating their online store websites.

Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, consider these tips from the FTC to help avoid a scam:

Check out the company or product by typing its name in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what other people say about it. Read the seller's description of the product carefully. If the seller has name-brand goods at steeply discounted prices, they might be fakes.

Look at the terms of the sale. Calculate the total purchase price, including taxes, shipping, and handling. Find out when you can expect your delivery. By law, sellers should ship your order within the time stated in its ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t state a time. If you have to return the item, can you get a refund? Who pays for return shipping? Is there a restocking fee?

Pay by credit card. You’ll get protections under federal law, so you don’t have to pay for merchandise you ordered but didn’t get. If a business charged your account too soon, and didn’t deliver the merchandise on time, you can dispute the billing error and report it to your credit card company.

If you have a problem with an online purchase, you can try to work it out with the seller, but remember: you have the right to dispute a billing error directly with the credit card issuer. And if you suspect a scam, tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

For more for more tips, blogs, and videos about avoiding Coronavirus-related scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus.

Information provided by Bridget Small, FTC Consumer Education Specialist.

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