Receiving Your Online Order: a Start-to-Finish Guide

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Rebecca Harpster
Golden Gate Better Business Bureau

Some items you can only find online, and online retailers often tempt shoppers with amazing deals. Unfortunately, not all orders arrive safely, and there are a few places where things could go wrong: from shopping on a scam website to package theft.

In 2017, consumers nationwide reported more than 4,600 online shopping scams to BBB Scam Tracker, and 72% of reports involved a monetary loss – the highest of all scam types! Due to the scam’s high exposure, susceptibility, and median loss, online purchase scams are the fourth riskiest scam to consumers, according to the BBB Risk Index (

  1. Do your research. It’s easy for scammers to create e-commerce websites that take your money but never send goods. Before shopping on a website, look it up on to make sure it’s trustworthy. There, you can see its rating, complaint history and reviews from past customers. Don’t rely on the site’s social media accounts – they can easily delete negative comments! Make sure the site is secure: look for the “https”, where the “s” stands for “secure”, and read the privacy policy (it’s a red flag if there’s no posted privacy policy). If the site shows a BBB Seal, click on it and make sure it links to their BBB Business Profile on
  2. Read the fine print. Read the return, cancellation, and refund policies very carefully. Make sure to look at the site’s contact page and FAQ to see what methods of contact are available should an issue arise. Consider it a red flag if they don’t have a toll-free phone number and can only be contacted through email. It’s also important to carefully read the product details: many people think they’re buying one thing, but receive another because they didn’t read the fine print. Pay with a credit card; if your order never arrives you may be able to dispute the charge and get your money back.
  3. Track your package. It’s always a good idea to request a tracking number for your package and track it as it’s shipped – paying attention to estimated delivery dates. Save this number, along with order confirmations and other delivery information. If your package is initially shipped but never arrives at your door, this can help you figure out what went wrong.
  4. Watch out for delivery phishing scams. In 2017, consumers nationwide reported more than 12,800 phishing scams to BBB Scam Tracker – up from around 1,200 reported in 2016! Fraudsters, pretending to be from a well-known delivery service, email “missed delivery” or “shipping confirmation” notices. This can be easy to fall for if you recently ordered something online! Recipients are instructed to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more or complete the delivery. Unfortunately, the links and attachments will likely unleash a virus or other malware that can steal your personal information or corrupt your device. Even if you did order a package, legitimate delivery companies will likely leave a tag on your door if they’re unable to deliver, not send an email.
  5. Protect yourself from package theft. Try not to schedule deliveries unless you’ll know you’ll be home and not on vacation. If you can’t avoid having a package delivered when you won’t be home, have it delivered to the post office or other carrier facility where you can pick it up, consider having it delivered to your work, or ask a friend or trusted neighbor to pick it up from your home for you. You can sometimes choose to require a signature for delivery, which ensures that a package won’t just be left on a doorstep. You can also request that a package be delivered to a more secure back or side door. 

You can reach your BBB at or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting