Scammers Take Advantage of Online Holiday Shoppers, BBB Warns

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COLUMBIA - As the holidays approach, websites trying to rip-off consumers or steal their identities pop up online. 

The Better Business Bureau warned consumers about a website claiming to sell Michael Kors handbags. According to a BBB press release, a woman from Columbia, IL paid $94 to it without receiving merchandise. The website has been shut down, but the BBB says it can only work to shut down websites that have been reported, and there might be hundreds of similar sites. 

"The key with these scams is we won't necessarily know about them unless the consumer calls and reports them," Columbia BBB director Mike Harrison said. "So it is their responsibility to do that. So once we have that information we can post it on our website, and hopefully with enough complaints, we can do enough to get those websites shut down." 

Columbia resident Samantha Galati said she did some of her holiday shopping online, but she didn't worry about scams because she visited websites she trusted, such as Amazon and Best Buy.

"I haven't really heard of online scams, so it's not really something I'm worried about," Galati said. "I'm usually pretty trustworthy, like I trust the sites that I go to."

Harrison said that scammers often take advantage of people searching for trademarked brand names, like Michael Kors in the most recent incident.

"They'll register on several different websites that might contain the names of a retailer, in this case Michael Kors with the handbags. So they'll register and it will be very similar to the real website," he said.

Harrison says there are a few ways consumers can check if a site is authentic. He says suspicious websites often have misspellings or improper grammar. He says secure websites have a url that begins with "https://," with the "s" indicating secure, and might have a small closed lock logo on the bottom right hand corner of the site. He also says beware of too-good-to-be-true deals and to make sure your computer has the latest security features. 

Harrison also says to look up whether a business is BBB accredited online at