skip to Main Content

News Archives

BBB Advice on Online Shopping

December 8, 2020

Published in All About Seniors Fall/Winter Edition

By Ms. Jacqueline Purtell; Communication Assistant

My grandmother is the strongest, funniest, most passionate person I know. She has witnessed war, immigrated to a new continent, raised three children, lost loved ones, and is currently living in a global pandemic during the era of digital media. My grandmother is my idol, but if there is one thing I know that she does not, it is the Internet. She understands texting, knows how to check Instagram, and is fairly tech savvy for her age. However, in the age of COVID-19, the amount we are relying on our computers to do daily tasks is out of her comfort zone. Thirty years younger, my mother still cannot tell which Facebook posts are real or fake. If you did not grow up in the age of the Internet, it can be difficult to understand the tacit workings of the world wide web.

As of last year, seniors report a ​higher average monetary loss​ due to scams than any other age group. The loss amount is over three times as high as it is for 18-24 year olds. Scammers know that this fall and winter are bringing new challenges to seniors. The new year is primed for scammers to take advantage of older adults as COVID-19 has caused many businesses to shift their focus to unfamiliar digital platforms. With seniors being encouraged to stay home, it is more important than ever to be aware of potential scams both in person and online as the year comes to an end.

For the new year will bring online shopping like never before. My grandma is online shopping this past holiday season for the first time, and many older adults are using the internet as their primary shopping method for next few months. If I could give my parents and grandparents some advice when online shopping, I would say to always remember to:

λ   Check the website: make sure you can find a location, valid URL (should begin with https://), and privacy policy. Leaving out important information is a red flag for a website. Many spelling and grammar mistakes can also be a sign of a fraudulent website.

λ   Be wary of ads:​ unsolicited emails, discounts seeming too good to be true, and free trial scams are often tools scammers use to get your information. Older adults are often targeted with advertisements geared toward anti-aging products and miracle health supplements.

λ   Be careful of payment types: ​online businesses who only allow you to pay in gift cards, prepaid cards, wire transfers, etc. may be trying to ensure your money is not protected. Credit cards are usually the safest option for online shopping.

λ   Check the return policy:​ if there is no return policy, you may get stuck with a product you did not want!

λ   Ask for help: ​if you are not sure about a site you want to use, or you feel as though you are having trouble navigating shopping online, reach out to a family member, friend, or your local BBB to help you. Having a second opinion never hurts when avoiding scams.


For More Information

Learn about ​common senior scams​, and read more about how to navigate scam

at​. Check and make sure you are being a smart ​online shopper with the BBB​.

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.

Ms. Jacqueline Purtell, BBB