Warning about online shopping ahead of the holidays

Five people are accused of switching barcodes out at various Southwest Florida stores and paying for the items at drastically low prices. Some of the items are almost certainly going to end up online when you are shopping for holiday presents and there are ways to avoid them.

More than $300,000 was stolen from retail stores, including some in Southwest Florida. Lee Massie, the special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Orlando, said the products were sold online “through an eBay-type account” at a profit for the thieves. The items that came from places like Home Depot and Target, usually “sell just below retail” to unsuspecting shoppers.

Online shopping this holiday season will be in the billions and scams like these are on the minds of some shoppers.

“Marketplace on Facebook is my favorite thing,” Gabrielle Connor said. “So knowing that people are doing that makes it harder to trust that because then that puts me at risk.”

Right now and until around Christmas, online shoppers will encounter dozens of special sales. Rich Kolko, safety and security specialist for WINK News and a 20 year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said there are some big red flags to look for before purchasing the items in your online shopping cart.

“A big red flag is if this is the only place you can find that item at that price,” Kolko said. “Typically, when something goes on sale, it’s on sale throughout the country, especially with these big retailers.”

If police suspect that you purchased a stolen item, even by accident, Kolko said you could lose not only the item but the money you spent on it. But, there is a low risk of prosecution. To avoid the trouble, he recommends purchasing items this holiday season from stores you are familiar with, especially when it comes to online shopping.

“Especially around Christmas, for the presents for people,” Connor said, “you don’t want them to have something taken away from them that you thought you were getting for them.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Michael Mora
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