NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With 2020 in the books, the Better Business Bureau in North Texas has compiled a list of the most common scams to hit the area.

When the pandemic forced us to stay home and out of stores, online shopping hit new levels. So it’s no surprise the most common scams involved shady websites and sellers.

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BBB spokesperson Amy Rasor says complaints ran the gamut. “Being overcharged for your items, not receiving items, fake shipping companies, and then having insurance fees added on as well.”

She says most victims were led to questionable sites through their social media feeds and emails. “Don’t click links from email or social media,” said Rasor. “Go directly to the website.”

Once you’re there, check the “contact us” section for a physical address and phone number. You want to make sure there are ways to reach the company if something goes wrong with your order. You can also search BBB complaints and Google reviews to see what other customers experienced.

Rasor says you also need to be wary of a good deal. If the seller is offering a popular item for less, that can be a red flag. “Always be skeptical. Always wonder, does this feel right?”

Another big scam in 2020 involved pets. Criminals usually target people looking for specific breeds, using stolen photos and videos to lure in victims.

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Amber Chester paid $800 for a Bengal cat she found online, then another $1,100 for airport transport. When the “seller” requested more money for a USDA license, Chester realized she’d been scammed. “I knew better, I really did. But I was so emotional that I let the emotions take advantage of the logic.”

Rasor says scammers count on customers falling in love with the furry faces and ignoring red flags like excessive transport fees. “For scammers that’s actually the ideal situation because they can get you for more money for the transport of the animal that doesn’t exist.”

The pandemic has provided the perfect excuse for fake sellers to keep buyers at bay. Experts say when buying a pet online you need to insist on speaking to the seller on the phone, not just over text or email. You should also insist on a live video chat so you can see the seller and the animal.

No matter what you buy this year, there’s one big red flag that should stop you in your tracks every time: gift card payments.

Rasor says paying with gift cards is risky because just like cash, they are untraceable. “[The cards area] not connected to any account on their end or your end,” said Rasor. “The money’s gone.”

The scams are so common the Federal Trade Commission released a video warning about them.

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