Shopping Online? Watch for These Tricks

This holiday shopping season, BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports about shipping tricks that scammers use to steal from online shoppers. The con artists are exploiting PayPal’s polices by delivering incorrect items and using stolen tracking numbers.

How the scam works

You are shopping online and find an amazing deal, often brand name goods at a significant discount. Often, the items are large – such as pieces of furniture or a vaccum cleaner. The website and the products look legitimate, so you decide to take a chance and make a purchase. The site directs you to pay through PayPal, which leads you to believe it’s safe.  

After checkout, you get a confirmation email that contains a tracking number from UPS, FedEx, or another shipping service. But when the package arrives, but it’s not what you expected. For example, one shopper ordered a 6 foot artificial Christmas tree, but “received a bottle brush Christmas tree no bigger than my hand.”  Another shopper told BBB that they ordered “a pressured machine washer for $78…” and received “a yellow shirt that’s not worth $2.” In another common version of this scam, the package is delivered… but to the wrong address. 

If you try to correct the mistake, you’ll find that the ecommerce site is either unresponsive or unhelpful. In some cases, the site doesn’t provide contact information; in others, no one responds to emails or calls. 

Some scam victims report filing claims with PayPal in order to get a refund. PayPal’s protection promise says customers can open a dispute if the package never arrives, if the item received is counterfeit or differs significantly from what was ordered. However, not all claims were resolved to the buyer’s satisfaction. See the full Scam Alert for more details and PayPal’s response.  


How to avoid shipping scams:

  • Before paying, know your rights and responsibilities. In everything from check cashing scams to cons involving new peer-to-peer payment systems, scammers often take advantage of what consumers don’t know when it comes to processing payments. Don’t make a purchase from a shady seller assuming the purchase will be protected no matter what.
  • Before buying online, confirm the site has real contact information. Make sure the seller has a working phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems.
  • Don’t wait too long to file a dispute. Scammers know that PayPal and credit cards have time limits for disputes. They often try to delay the process long enough so that shoppers miss the window.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, there’s probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what’s been advertised elsewhere.
For more information
Learn more about spotting and reporting PayPal fraud. For more resources on shipping fraud, see FedEx’s website and UPS’s online resource center. To learn more about scams this holiday season, check out BBB’s holiday tips.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at

About Comunicados


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *