Consumer Tips in a COVID-19 World

Consumer Tips in a COVID-19 World

By Rodney Davis, CEO, BBB Serving Southeast Florida & the Caribbean

Just when you think you have life figured out, COVID-19 invades our lives and everything is changed. Simple tasks like buying toilet paper are no longer simple and figuring out how to handle life’s basic chores safely is an ever-evolving challenge. Businesses too are trying to figure out how to continue to operate in a safe manner for their employees and customers. In the months ahead everyone will need to keep calm and communicate effectively. 

What does it mean to clean and disinfect? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations (www.CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-NCOV/Community/Disinfecting-Building-Facility) on how to clean and disinfect multiple surface areas to help prevent the spread of the virus. If you are hiring a business to clean your house or office, ask how they will be cleaning and, as appropriate, disinfecting the space. What products and procedures will they be using and are they aligned with CDC recommendations? As you consider getting your hair cut or visiting a local business establishment, ask what they are doing to provide a safe experience for customers. The best businesses are developing standards and putting them into practice to build trust with their customers, and their employees. As a good customer, do your part. If the business is screening customers by taking temperatures, requiring masks, or other procedures, please work with them in the spirit of cooperation and safety.

Many of us who may not have previously been online shoppers have adapted to using the internet for everything from face masks to treadmills. In the month of April, the industry generating the most complaints (471) to our BBB is online retailers. Complaints range from products not delivered, significant delays in delivery, counterfeit products, and many other negative experiences. In some instances the problems are related to supply chain issues, a large increase in packages being shipped, and, worst of all, scams put in place to trick consumers to purchase hard to find products due to COVID-19.

BBB tips on how to avoid online shopping scams:

  • Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at www.BBB.org. If there are complaints due to delayed or non-delivered products, make the smart decision to buy from trusted businesses.
  • Be wary of sales or prices that seem too good to be true. In many of these cases, either the items do not exist or they are of poorer quality.
  • Be cautious about buying hard to find products from businesses with no background. It takes minimal resources to set up a fake business on a website with the sole intent of getting money from unsuspecting customers.
  • Read all terms and conditions carefully before completing a purchase. Make sure to understand expected delivery time and refund policies. Know your options in case you receive an item that was not as advertised.
  • Pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.
  • Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://.” You may also see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Unemployment is reaching near record levels and people out of work are becoming desperate to find work. Scammers are at work preying on this desperation to trick people into acts that will only make their situation even worse. Fraudsters find ways to take advantage of this by posting phony work-from-home jobs promising remote work with good pay and no interview required. These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing.

After you are “hired,” the company may charge you upfront for “training.” You may need to provide your personal and banking information to run a credit check or set up direct deposit. You may be “accidentally” overpaid with a fake check and asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference. Or, you are asked to buy expensive equipment and supplies to work at home.

  • Never “accept” a position without thoroughly vetting the business. Don’t rely on emails or phone numbers provided by someone “posing” as a representative of a well known business. Go directly to the main contact number of a business to check out each potential offer. Real companies will understand and appreciate that you are pro-actively checking out any legit opportunity. 
  • Never return overpayments or pay for training for positions that have not been “proven” legitimate. 
  • Do not provide personal information and banking information to faceless business opportunities.

The world is changing. How we do business is changing. Unfortunately, panic and uncertainty can be used to get us to do things we otherwise would not even consider. Be smart and be safe.