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How Retailers Should Respond To COVID-19 Scams

Scams are nothing new. The first scams date back to the late 18th century. People in business were contacted by an individual supposedly wanting to smuggle a prominent person out of a Spanish prison. Like modern scams, there was a promise of large amounts of money for a small amount of money to “grease the wheels.” Flash forward to the internet age, and the same scams exist just in a different way. Now today, they are taking advantage of a pandemic. These so-called “fly by night” businesses are trying to con people out of the last remaining money they have. The problem is, they are posing as retail companies and, in turn, giving them a bad name. This can and will affect your online reputation.

Several reports, including one from the New York Times and one from the Chicago Tribune, are showing a rise in these scams since the world has gone on lockdown. These bad actors are creating websites that defraud customers and harm retail establishments. Throughout this blog, I am going to share with you some ways that you can prevent these con artists from negatively impacting your business.


By far, the best currency in business is trust. If your customers can’t trust you, they will often find another company in which to do business. To build trust with your customers in these times, you need to make sure that getting the details right. That means you will have to have proper inventory levels. Since many businesses can provide customers with inventory count (updated every few minutes), you need to make sure your system is working.

When you are upfront with what customers can buy from you, it builds trust. While shoppers may be disappointed that you are out of the products they need, they will not look down on your for not having it. All they are asking is that they know what to expect when walking into your store or clicking on your page to order products. They know and understand that you do not have an unlimited supply of these products. However, if they are expecting you to have a product and you don’t, it can lead to negative reviews.

You may be asking yourself how this relates to scams. Well, the businesses mentioned above will send out information that is supposed to be from your company. It will appeal to the customer as a person that needs limited supply items. For a “small fee,” they will put the product on hold for them. When they arrive at the store, they will find no product waiting for them and nothing on the shelves. Naturally, they will assume your company is responsible and write a terrible review. The next day, they will be gone, and no one will be able to find them.


Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate the tone of your content. What has worked in the past is not going to fly right now. Customers do not want to hear why your product is better than your competitor. They want reassurance that you will be there for them when they need you most.

For this, I suggest you play to your strengths. If you are a brick and mortar establishment, remind them how long you have been serving their community. Businesses that have been around for decades tend to be more trusted than those that have only been around a year or so. The reason for this is that they think the longer you have been in business, the more you can be trusted. While there is a little grain of truth in that, it is not always true. Companies are doing anything they can to stay open right now. I am sure when all is said and done, we are going to hear about some shady practices by large companies. Conversely, we are going to hear about newer businesses coming through for their customers in their hour of need. There will likely be a changing of the guards should this happen.

Make sure you are providing your customers with a detailed list of your policies—anything from store return policies to picking up orders. When your customers have all the information, they can make well-informed decisions. This will, in turn, reassure them that everything is going to be all right.


To know if you are a victim of a scam attempt, you need to keep in touch with your customers. You likely have more time for this than you have in the past. Since there are too many customer review platforms to list, and going to each one would take hours, consider using a third-party application to monitor for your business name. Anytime someone writes something about you, a notification will be sent to your email. When and if you get one of these notifications, you need to make your way to that site and figure out what is going on.

Scams are likely to make people mad. They will go to any review site, likely more than one, and write a lot of terrible things about you. If you are there to make amends, you have a fighting chance of retaining the customer. You can start by trying to make it right. Additionally, you can provide them with information that can help them report the scam to the government. The more details they can give, the better it will be when it comes to apprehending the culprits.


Online reputation is a very volatile subject. You can go from the top of the heap to lower than low in the blink of an eye. Watching for scams that can potentially affect your business is something that you should be doing daily. You have a lot less to do these days. Making sure that your company can come out on the other side of this pandemic with a flawless reputation should be your number one priority. All you need to do is follow the advice I provided you, and everything should be fine.