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BBB: Phony websites preying on those seeking PPE, cleaning products

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As stores struggle to keep their shelves stocked with items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, some people are turning to the internet to find what they need.

But do some research before you buy, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns, because people are losing money to fake sellers that are popping up online.

Since the beginning of March, there’s been a nationwide increase in reports of website scams, according to the BBB.

Paula Fleming, the BBB’s local chief marketing and sales officer, says links and ads you see on social media for products like masks, disinfectants and toilet paper may not be legitimate.

“If there is a website promising you a quick turn-around for cheap money, it’s a huge red flag during this pandemic,” she said.

“There’s ads that are running selling personal protective equipment and face masks that claim to be 100 percent protective gear, and they either are not receiving it or it’s false advertising,” Fleming added. “There’s no such 100% cure, whether it’s a sanitizer, a lotion, or a face mask to protect you.”

Fleming advised searching for the website online to see if others have reported complaints about it, and making sure the site is secure before providing any personal or financial information.

“You can simply do that by looking at the address bar at the top when you’re making purchases: make sure it has an https:// standing for ‘secure,'” she explained.

When making purchases online, you should always use a credit card, according to Fleming.

“That way you have an extra layer of protection,” she said. “You can go through the credit card you made these purchases on and dispute the charges.”

If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, you can report it using the BBB’s Scam Tracker.

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