A shift toward online shopping during COVID-19, global supply chain crisis, and a resurging economy have all created a recipe for a breakneck holiday shopping season — one where online shopping fraud poses a tremendous risk to consumers. Online purchase scams have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and social media ads play a key role in the mushrooming problem, a new Better Business Bureau (BBB) study finds.

The in-depth investigative study — Theft on a massive scale: Online shopping fraud and the role of social media — finds the pandemic, along with lax social commerce shopping platforms, has opened the door for scammers in China to steal from desperate online shoppers.

Online shopping fraud has been growing for several years, but according to BBB research, it dramatically increased during the pandemic as more people shopped online. A BBB survey found 29% of people shopped online before COVID, and this increased to 37% by the end of 2020. In turn, BBB Scam Tracker reports about online shopping scams nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, and the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust named online shopping scams as the riskiest scam of 2020, publishing special reports on this growing fraud in 2020 and 2021. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about online purchases more than doubled in 2020 and continue to increase throughout 2021….

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