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How to avoid getting scammed when shopping online

Prince George RCMP are warning residents to protect themselves from scammers when making online purchases.
online shopping
There are four common things to look out for, when shopping online, to avoid getting scammed, police say.

Prince George RCMP are warning residents to watch out for common scams and frauds while shopping online this holiday season.

According to Statistics Canada, 82 per cent of Canadians shopped online in 2020, up from 73 per cent in 2018. Canadians spent a total of $84.4 billion online n 2020, up from $57.4 billion two years prior. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 13 per cent of Canadians ordered groceries online for the first time and nine per cent bought physical goods online for the first time.

“The excitement of finding the perfect gift for a friend or loved one can sometimes cloud our judgment, especially if it’s at a great price,” Prince George RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “However, not every online shopping venue has consumers’ best interests in mind. To help people navigate which online stores are secure and which ones are not, Prince George RCMP has some tips shoppers can use to help decide where to spend their money.

Here are four things to look for when shopping online to reduce your chances of being scammed:

1) Watch out for prices that are “too good to be true.” If a website is offering something at a price considerably lower than any other retailer, it’s a good indicator it may be a scam.

2) Avoid complicated or unfamiliar payment options. If the payment page is unfamiliar or overly-complicated, consumers should be wary.

3) Avoid sites with poor grammar, layouts or that are full of typos. Reputable online retailers spend a lot of time and money to develop their websites and make them easy to use. Scam sites don’t have the same standards.

4) Look for the padlock in the URL bar. In Microsoft Edge and Safari, the padlock symbol should appear immediately to the left of the website address in the address bar. If the padlock icon isn’t there, or the padlock is shown as unlocked, it indicates the website’s information is not secure.

The Government of Canada has more holiday tips on its Get Cyber Safe website, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a list of common holiday scams.

Other than scams, Statistics Canada’s survey results from 2020 found that 38 per cent of Canadian online shoppers surveyed reported encountering delivery times slower than indicated by the seller, 24 had issues with foreign retailers not selling or delivering to Canada, 20 per cent had received products that were lower quality than expected and 19 per cent had issues with technical failures of a website they were dealing with.