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BBB warns: Be careful purchasing from unknown websites during COVID-19

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MILWAUKEE — With shortages of sanitizers, disinfectants, masks and paper products seen throughout the country since the COVID-19 virus first surfaced, BBB warns that websites selling these and other related products are also continuing to surface.

Since mid-April, BBB Wisconsin has received nineteen complaints against Zackaryo.com from consumers in fifteen states.

According to a press release from the BBB, complaints allege consumers purchased items such as Clorox wipes and toilet paper, but also one consumer purchased an outdoor shed and two say they purchased TV’s and Nintendo sets, spending anywhere from $10 – $600. The complainants state they have not received their items and cannot reach the company. As of mid-May, BBB Serving Wisconsin notes that the website, created in mid-February, is no longer active.

In addition, about 40 consumers per day are inquiring about the company at bbb.org. This means that people are checking on the company, likely before doing business.

The Dodgeville, Wisconsin address that was listed on the defunct website was of a home in a residential area, not associated with any company.

“It is not unusual to see fake addresses listed on these new retail shopping sites springing up, says Jim Temmer, CEO and president of BBB Serving Wisconsin. “Scammers ‘hijack’ legitimate addresses and tack them on to a site, making it look as if they have a brick and mortar establishment.”

As reported last month, an investigation by BBB Wisconsin shows that most of these websites are newly created, within the last couple months. And, as quickly as they surface, many quickly disappear. The perpetrators behind the websites keep their identity private, and often disband the sites soon after they’ve created them and have taken your money.

BBB offers these tips when shopping online:

  • Know who you are dealing with. Check spelling and domain names. Google the website to see if others have been complaining. Look for other tell-tale signs such as poor grammar, lack of information, and capital letters in the middle of sentences.
  • Ensure the website address begins with [https://]https://.  The “s” stands for “secure.” A trustworthy online seller will have a secure domain, keeping your information safe from hackers. Also, check the address bar for a “not secure” messageMany websites will also have security certification logos visible on their page. Always click on them to verify they open an attached security policy because many scam sites will simply display these logos without an option to click through to a policy.
  • Check the age of a website’s domain. Use a website like Whois to check whether a website was established recently. Because crises like the coronavirus provide new avenues for scammers to take advantage of the public, they will often establish new websites that match current events.
  • Check for an about page and a contact us section. Scammers are creative, but they don’t often take the time to fabricate a full brand history like you would find on a company’s about us page. They may fabricate contact information, but BBB recommends ensuring the phone numbers and email addresses are both legitimate and responsive.
  • Phishing emails often lack personalization. Legitimate companies communicate with customers using their name, but scammers don’t often know their victims. Many email scams will begin with a non-personalized salutation, like “Dear sir or madam.”
  • Check a business at BBB.org. Whether the website offers face masks or toilet paper, verify its legitimacy before you make a purchase or provide your personal information.
  • Always pay by credit card. When purchasing any product or service through a website, always use a credit card as your payment method. If you pay by credit card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. If the product arrives defective or doesn’t arrive at all, you can dispute the charge on your credit card and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.

Read more Tips for Smart Shopping Online.

See more COVID-19 related scams.

If you encounter a scam, please report it to our BBB Scam Tracker at  BBB.org/scamtracker. Even if you don’t fall victim to the scam, the information allows you to share your experience with others and helps to protect the public from scammers.

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