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Online shopping scams happen when a retailer pretends to be legitimate by using a fake website or creating a mock ad campaign.
While most of the retailers online are legitimate, others will use the latest technology to set up competent storefronts to trick customers.
To successfully spot and avoid online shopping scams, follow these guidelines before making a purchase.
Check Other Websites for Reviews
Before you click on a new website, check if anyone has written a review on GlassDoor or Google to make sure the online retailer is legitimate.
If you find too many negative reviews or no reviews at all, be suspicious. You can also use the website BuyersGuide.com as their goal is to help consumers buy with confidence.
Writers on BuyersGuide.com compare multiple products under the same keyword to help you save money and find an item that suits your needs.
Be Suspicious of Social Media Ads
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are common places to find scammy websites and retailers because they can take advantage of targeted ads.
Users who are interested in fashion, makeup, or computers may come across profiles that sell products related to them, which is positive for both parties who want to build a strong customer relationship.
However, if a retailer with a social media platform contains the following, avoid them:
- New looking profile with few pictures.
- New-looking profile with all images uploaded the same day.
- “About” location has no information about the business.
- Photos have no description or copy-and-paste description.
- Photos are stock or stolen from other retailers (do a reverse image search).
- Has more followers than a new or abandoned profile should have (likely bought).
- Comments seem like they’re written from a bot (likely bought followers).
- Products are sold at a low price or offer free shipping.
Some scammers have caught on and don’t make their scamming nature as obvious. If that’s the case, the following section indicates one of the biggest red flags.
Online Retailer Only Takes Wire Transfer or E-Transfer
Never buy from an online retailer that’s in a rush to receive payment from you.
Some shopping scams will ask you to hand over your credit card details or down payment before you can access a deal, while others will just ask you to wire or e-transfer the full amount.
Don’t ever do this; even if you’re positive you can trust the person. After the money is out of your hands, there’s no way to get it back because you offered to hand it over in the first place.
What About Credit Cards?
Credit card companies generally only want to work with retailers they can trust, but that doesn’t mean that a retailer couldn’t claim they take credit anyway.
If a retailer accepts credit cards, but you feel uncomfortable using one, sign up for a PayPal account or buy a prepaid Visa. Under both methods, you stay protected against identity theft or fraud.
Always read the website’s terms and conditions before using a credit card if you wish to use one anyway. All legitimate retailers must have terms and conditions to stay legally compliant.
No Terms and Condition (Or Copy-Pasted T&C)
Legitimate online stores will have terms and conditions on their website because it protects them from issues that could arise at any point during and after a sale.
T&Cs will include what happens if their customers desire a refund. If that isn’t present, it’s likely that they either won’t offer you a refund (even if they’re legitimate) or won’t give you the item in the first place.
Other times an online store will copy and paste terms and conditions from another website and forget to change the retailer’s name, the country they reside in, and multiple other details.
If you notice a discrepancy here, that’s a sign of a definite scam. No legitimate business would leave themselves open for a possible legal dispute, no matter how small.