CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: Buyer beware when shopping online

(WBAY) - More people are using the ease of online shopping to seek out good deals.

In 2018, the US Supreme Court allowed states to start collecting sales taxes from out of state vendors with no physical presence in the state except for their online presence, but Florida is one of two states that has yet to start collecting. (RITESH NAYAK/ CC BY-SA 2.0)

But a staggering number of those deals turn sour.

A new report from the Better Business Bureau says 81 percent of people who filed a complaint last year lost money.

We talked with a local victim who wants others to learn from his loss.

Rick Lamal was trying to fill an empty spot in his finished basement, so he went shopping for a sofa table.

"There was something on Facebook that popped up, and it looked like exactly what we were looking for."

A sofa table and three stools had a bargain price of $152. He saw the table selling on other websites for five times as much.

"I did recognize the furniture name, and I looked at the furniture. I know it was legit. The company name I really didn't know -- it was just a series of letters."

That company was CFDSFSFFSDF.

"The price was right. Let's go for it," Lamal recalls. "I placed the order, paid with a credit card, and (received) immediate confirmation from the company."

Thinking furniture can take a while to arrive, Lamal waited. He never received a shipping confirmation.

After three months of waiting, he went back to the website and found an error message: "Oops. Something went wrong. This shop is unavailable."

He contacted his credit card company, which the Better Business Bureau says is willing to help in these situations, but he was told it's too late to get his money back.

"You can file a dispute with a credit card company, and they will do an investigation," Susan Bach of the BBB said, "and if it turns out to be a fraudulent seller or a counterfeit item or broken item, they're not going to make you pay that bill."

"However," Bach went on, "you have a very limited time to file disputes with your credit card company: It's within 60 days of that transaction showing up on your credit card statements."

Lamal wishes he would've taken a little more time to look into everything. When he went back to research the company, he found complaints about the same purchase he tried to make.

That's exactly what the BBB recommends you do before you buy:

  • Do your research
  • Thoroughly look into both the product and the company
  • Be hesitant to purchase anything through ads on social media, which the Better Business Bureau calls a red flag.