According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, Valentine’s Day spending this year is expected to top $27 billion. Special dinners, jewelry and flowers all account for large percentages of the spending.
Around this time, offers and coupons for last-minute Valentine’s Day shopping might be cropping up in your email inbox or web browser. While deep discounts on merchandise might be appealing, be on the lookout for Valentine’s Day cyber scammers who won’t deliver ordered goods on time, if at all — or even worse, attempt to steal your identity.
What seems like a legitimate business may eventually deliver purchased merchandise, but not within the quoted time frame, and it may even tag on hidden fees to turn a quick profit.
Tech-savvy thieves might build fake websites advertising the most desired Valentine’s Day gifts items for sale at incredibly steep discounts. Of course, once you have “made your purchase,” you have either given cyber criminals your credit card information or downloaded malicious spyware onto your computer, compromising your PC and possibly your identity as well.
Alternatively, if your computer isn’t infected with a virus, scammers might max out your credit card by selling you bogus, non-existent products. When shopping online, Better Business Bureau recommends adhering to the following:
• Do your homework. Before ordering flowers, jewelry or any other gifts for Valentine’s Day, check out the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 573-886-8965.
• Allow time for shipping and delivery. Check with the retailer or website to be certain that you have allowed enough time for delivery. Make sure that your preferred delivery date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order. If you order ahead of time, delivery and other charges will be less than last-minute or overnight shipping.
• Have a back-up plan. Make sure you understand a store’s guarantee and other policies. Find out how customer complaints are handled and what recourse you will have if the arrangement is not satisfactory. It’s best to use a credit card when ordering online, because you can dispute charges if the vendor doesn’t satisfy you. Charges made on a debit card are the same as cash, and you have no recourse through your bank if there is a problem.
• Don’t click online coupons. If you see a post on social media or receive an email with an offer, unless you’re sure the source is the real thing, don’t click. The offer could take you to a malicious website. If you see an offer online, search for it independently. Go to the company’s website and look for the offer there to verify the offer.
• Make sure the business has your information. When it comes to flower delivery, there are times when delivery instructions need to be confirmed or a delivery driver needs additional directions. Making sure the florist has a call-back phone number or your cellphone to help them make sure your mom gets what you expect.
Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.