LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Better Business Bureau is reporting a spike in online shopping scams — just in time for holiday shopping season.

Shannon Martin said she was a victim of an online shopping scam while searching for a lawnmower online.

“It came up on this Hardbird.store website as being about $100 less than the other options I was looking at,” she said.

Without researching the website — which she admits was a big mistake — Martin paid more than $200 for the lawnmower. After several days, she was sent a shipping notification and immediately noticed it was not her address listed. It also listed the weight of the item as two pounds.

“And a lawnmower would weigh more than 2 pounds, so I was very suspicious of that,” she said.

The lawnmower never came, and it had disappeared from the website when Martin went back to check.

“I was really angry, and felt like my hands were tied as a consumer,” she said.

According to the BBB, nearly 40% of the recent reports to the BBB Scam Tracker are for online shopping scams.

“Which is about 900 per day, in the LA office alone,” said Steve McFarland, CEO of BBB Los Angeles.

The BBB said half of all consumers found the fraudulent website through a Facebook ad.

“These scammers are smart,” McFarland said. “And the ads that they put together are made to look like legitimate companies.”

Nine out of 10 victims never get their items, according to the BBB.

Tony Arenas said he ordered two sought-after video games from a website called Best Deals and Beyond. Just like Martin, he paid $400 for items that never arrived.

But, he said he thought he did his homework.

“I looked up the when it was created,” he said. “I looked up the history of the company. I looked up the actual address that it had…Yeah, it was a ghost company and I learned my lesson.”

McFarland said there are several things that can help consumers spot these scams.

“The number one warning sign is a bargain basement price,” he said. “A price you just can’t turn down.”

The websites may also be made poorly, and include misspellings. They may also ask consumers to pay with a gift card or money transfer, which means once your money is gone, it’s gone for good.

The BBB recommends always paying with credit card or PayPal, because both are more protected and will help anyone who falls victim to a scam get their money back.

Kristine Lazar

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