With an increase in online shopping this Christmas season because of the pandemic, the Better Business Bureau is urging customers to be more cautious as they shop websites they may not have visited before.
"We are seeing, with the pandemic, there will be a lot more online shopping this year than any year before," says Amy Rasor, the Better Business Bureau's regional director. "We're really cautioning consumers to make sure they're aware of different scams online and make sure they're shopping smart and shopping safe."
Better Business Bureau says an online retailer based in Itasca, Wild Heifers Boutique, has received 175 complaints from customers in 18 states over the past year.
Customers reported they were waiting more than a month to receive orders. Some said they had received the wrong order; others say they were not able to check the status of their order or ask for a refund.
The store had a rating of 1.17 out of 5 stars on the Better Business Bureau website.
"Horrible business, she takes your money and never gives you your items," one customer wrote.
"This ‘business’ if that’s what you want to call it is a SCAM," another wrote.
Rasor says the Better Business Bureau tried to reach the owner of the boutique.
"Unfortunately, we were not receiving any response from this particular company. Then we did a secret shop where we were the ones doing the purchase to see if we would get the item we ordered, and we did not," Rasor says.
Wild Heifers Boutique's website on "My Shopify" was down Tuesday morning, and its last tweet was July 23, 2018. The Better Business Profile of the company is available HERE.
Rasor says people shopping online can protect themselves by using a credit card instead of a debit card. She says people should also go directly to a company's website instead of clicking a link from a social media page or another site.
"If you're thinking you're going to get this good deal, make sure you're looking at if the spelling is correct on the website. Is there any weird syntax or any other things that don't seem or feel right?" she says.
Rasor says small companies that may not have focused on online sales before can make their customers feel more comfortable, too.
"It's more important than ever to be very transparent about what you have available and how you're going to offer that to your customers," she says. "You want to make sure all of your return policies and exchange policies are clear and shared with the customers, so they know what to expect. Then honor what it is you promised you would do."