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INDIANAPOLIS — The Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana (BBB) is warning people about a scam that is targeting people who are shopping online.

The BBB Scam Tracker is getting numerous reports about shopping tricks that are exploiting PayPal’s policies by delivering incorrect items and using stolen tracking numbers.

The scam happens when someone purchases a product that uses PayPal at checkout. The customer gets a confirmation email with a tracking number, but what shows up isn’t what they ordered.

The BBB provided examples of buying a six-foot artificial Christmas tree but getting a bottle brush Christmas tree. Another variation of the scam is the package is delivered to the wrong address.

If the customer tries to correct the mistake, they either find that the website is not responsive or not helpful. In some cases, they can’t find any contact information, or no one responds to emails or calls.

The BBB says some victims that filed a claim with PayPal were denied a refund. They provided one example of a customer filing a dispute after their item was shipped to a fictitious address, but PayPal closed the dispute after the seller insisted they delivered the package.

This is despite PayPal’s protection promise that says customers can file a dispute if their package never arrives, is counterfeit or differs significantly from what was ordered.

The BBB contacted PayPal about the reports and after looking into the stolen tracking code issue replied:

“We notified various shipping carriers of this issue allowing tracking data to be stolen and we believe it has been closed. In addition, we made enhancements to our algorithms to identify and disable these fraudulent bad actors. In fact, we are stopping a significant majority of these fraudulent sellers at first transaction through our detection program and have refunded customers impacted by this fraud scheme even if they did not appeal our decision.” 

The BBB provided tips for consumers to protect themselves from this scam including:

Before paying, know your rights and responsibilities. In everything from check cashing scams to cons involving new peer-to-peer payment systems, scammers often take advantage of what consumers don’t know when it comes to processing payments. Don’t make a purchase from a shady seller assuming the purchase will be protected no matter what.  
Before buying online, confirm the site has real contact information. Make sure the seller has a working phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems. 
Don’t wait too long to file a dispute. Scammers know that PayPal and credit cards have time limits for disputes. They often try to delay the process long enough so that shoppers miss the window. 
If the price seems too good to be true, there’s probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what’s been advertised elsewhere.   
Review BBB online shopping tips. Many online purchase scams use similar tactics. See BBB’s online shopping tips for more advice and visit our BBB.org/onlineshopping for more.