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Scammers capitalize on supply chain problems

Fake websites to rake in millions during holiday shopping season - CBS' Anna Werner tells you how to spot these scams

NEW YORK, NY (CBS News) - Global supply chain bottlenecks are making things difficult for holiday shoppers.

According to one survey, 77 percent of American adults say they have experienced product- related shopping problems. Nearly half of those were for items that were either out of stock or backordered. And, to make things worse, scammers are taking advantage of these difficulties by setting up fake websites.

Iowa high school senior Jayce Leninger likes music, in particular, artist Billie Eilish. So when the singer-songwriter released her new album over the summer, he decided to by himself a birthday gift. He picked up some of her merchandise from what looked like her bona fide website.

"I started looking around and shopping," says Leninger.

He bought a "bundle" he'd seen on Instagram, with a sweatshirt, poster, and other items. Price tag? About $100. But, when the transaction hit his bank account, he says, it showed some $79 which he found suspicious.

"And so after that, I started to look at the website, look up reviews on the website, and there are over like a thousand people reviewing this website saying it's a scam. Don't buy. I haven't got my stuff in over half a year," explains Leninger.

"So what has happened in terms of your money and your merchandise?" asks reporter Anna Werner.

"Well, I don't have the merchandise or my money," he answers.

He's just one of thousands of consumers who say they've lost money to scammers posing as legitimate online retailers.

"We have seen a 2000 percent increase over the past three months, driven by the supply chain issues that are in this country today," says Haywood Talcove, CEO of Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions.

Talcove says that equals over 5,000 fake sites, up from just 100 or so earlier this year, as criminals take advantage of consumers' need for products now in short supply.

"What's happening is when you go to some of the big-box stores, whether it be Wal-Mart, Amazon, Best Buy, they don't have the toy that you want in stock. And then you Google it. And then you find this really boutique company that is offering the bicycle that your daughter wants and you think, you know what? I'm going to get it. It really isn't a company. It's run. It's a front for a transnational criminal group," advises Talcove.

And Dave Holister with the Secret Service Cyber Fraud Task Force says those criminals' fake sites, typically launched from overseas, are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

"They, you know, they they learn as they go, just like you and I, it's their job," says Holister.

But examine sites closely, he says, and there are often tipoffs: misspellings, grammar mistakes, links on the page that don't work, and a refusal to accept credit cards.

"These sources and these websites will often only ask for payment via a a wire service such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, places where when those services that where the transaction is put through, those monies are gone. And it's very likely almost impossible for the consumer to get their money back," he advises.

"It's like a virus. It just spreads. It doesn't stop until the consumers stop falling for the trick," says Talcove.

He estimates consumers will have $20 billion stolen by the end of the holiday shopping season.

CBS News

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