How to Get Your Money Back After Being Ripped-Off on an Internet Sale

By Laura Woods

When you order a product online, you should expect to receive it.
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When you purchase an item on the Internet, you expect it to arrive as described by the seller, but it doesn’t always happen this way. If you receive an item that is vastly different than advertised or if it never arrives at all, you’ve been ripped off. No one likes to be taken advantage of, so it’s important to take action immediately to try to get a refund and stop the seller from scamming more innocent victims in the future.

Email the seller and request a refund. Explain that you never received your item or that it was vastly different than the description. Provide your order number and any other information you have to identify your purchase. While you may be upset, do your best to stay calm and avoid becoming emotional.

Reach out to the site the item was advertised on. The company may have a resolution process of its own to help get your money back. It’s also important for the company to be aware of the situation to try to stop the seller from taking advantage of more customers in the future.

Contact your credit card company or PayPal if you paid using one of these methods. You may be able to file a dispute against the seller, which causes the company to conduct an investigation into the incident. PayPal allows you to escalate a dispute to a claim if the issue cannot be resolved, where both sides present themselves to the company and a panel chooses which side is in the right.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. You’ll need to provide contact information for yourself and the business, specifically detail the dispute and instruct the organization on the type of result you’re hoping to receive. The organization will attempt to mediate the situation by trying to get in touch with the buyer to help the two of you reach an agreement.

Contact your local police and the authorities in the area where the buyer lives, if you know where that is. You’ll need to provide both your contact information and that of the company you believed scammed you. Expect to give a report explaining the specific details of the transaction and why you believe you were victimized. Present any other relevant information you have to support your stance. They may not be able to do anything, but if you file a report it may help to build a bigger case against the person in the future, as you’re likely not the only victim.

Bring a lawsuit against the seller in small claims court. You probably won’t be able to do this unless the person is located in your area. You’re typically allowed to file a claim for amounts between $3,000 to $10,000 but limits vary by state. Bring evidence such as ads falsely promoting the product or emails from the seller to support your case. Most states allow you to represent yourself in small claims court, but a select few require you to have an attorney, which makes the process less cost-effective.


Review a website's policies to see what the company does if a problem occurs before making a purchase.