The rise of online marketplaces and retail sites has levelled the game of shopping, allowing businesses of all sizes and ages, from established brands to brand-new ventures, to set up online shops. Having purchases delivered to the doorstep without leaving the house is also a magical experience for the consumer.
However, there are mysterious risks with this ease of access: the possibility of getting ripped off when shopping online. Scammers operating online are getting more innovative and creative in their attempts to steal your money. But have no fear; we have compiled all the information you’ll need to stay safe while shopping online in this handy guide. After reading this piece, you can shop securely online.
Recognising the risks (Types of rip-offs when shopping online)
The following are some more prevalent methods scammers or fake online retailers use to rip off online shoppers.
Fake online stores
Cybercriminals create fake online stores to imitate legitimate retailers. Even though these stores exist only to deceive customers, they may offer tempting products or discounts. It is best to find legitimate review websites, check out service feedback there and evaluate if you should opt for that particular store or service.
False promised products
Products shipped to customers may look very different from their online descriptions. It is possible that some orders will not ship, leaving customers frustrated and out of pocket.
Counterfeit products are a significant source of online fraud targeting unsuspecting customers. It can be challenging to differentiate between a genuine product and a knockoff because they look like a well-known brand.
Secret charges and payment fraud
Fake online shops tack on extra fees at the checkout, like astronomical shipping costs. These unexpected costs can increase the final price of purchases. Scammers may demand unusual payment methods or phoney payment gateways.
Shopping at fake online stores can reveal name, address, and credit card information. Scammers can use this information to steal identities, drain bank accounts, and commit financial fraud.
Misleading social media ads
Facebook and Instagram ads are a significant source of online shopping rip-offs. These flashy advertisements promote products that either don’t arrive or are low-quality knockoffs using hacked accounts and stolen images.
Scammers use a practice called “brushing” to fabricate positive reviews on well-known sites like Amazon and eBay. Consumers could mistake a fake website for authentic reviews.
How to shop online without being ripped off?
Do your research (know your seller)
Verifying the online store’s authenticity is the first step to a secure online shopping experience. Investigate the merchant thoroughly before purchasing from them. Check for a real-world address, phone number, online reviews, and ratings from verified users.
- Buy only from trustworthy online retailers. Purchasing goods from reputable and licensed vendors reduces the risk of being ripped off.
- Always read the reviews left by previous customers. Overly positive reviews and reviews written in poor English are usually indicators of a fake store. It is best to check any store’s and company’s service feedback on reputable online review sites like Britain Reviews, a well-known review site in the UK. By reading the testimonials and experiences that different users have shared on this site, you can locate trustworthy online shops, services, and businesses.
Verify if the website is safe
- Check the website URL for the “https://” prefix, which denotes a safe and encrypted connection. If a website doesn’t have this security measure, it’s not safe to enter your personal or financial information.
- Always look at the About page of any selling website because fraudulent e-commerce sites often ignore it. Unreliable websites have vague About pages with no actual content or contact details.
- Watch for sketchy layouts and low-quality photos that might have been copied from other websites.
- The language barrier is generally the first indicator that a website is a scam. Watch for brand names or product descriptions that sound off or need correction in English.
- Bad spelling, grammar, and unusual syntax or formatting are further telltale signs of an online scam shop.
Do not accept deals that look “too good to be true.”
- Read the fine print on product details and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true; this is the best way to avoid fraud.
- Low prices should raise red flags, so it pays to shop around. Find out how much the product typically sells by checking the prices at several retailers.
Be aware of phishing scams
Emails requesting sensitive information should be treated with suspicion. Scammers use fictitious company names to gain access to your personal information. Check the sender’s identity and avoid any links they may have sent you.
- Check the sender’s email address twice before clicking links or sending personal data. Official domains are the mark of a reputable company.
- Install up-to-date antivirus software to protect your devices from phishing attacks.
Make safe transactions
- Avoid using a debit card or check whenever possible, as these payment methods lack the same fraud protections as credit cards.
- Stick to well-known and secure payment options like credit cards and PayPal. Most credit card issuers offer fraud liability policies so that you won’t be responsible for any unauthorised purchases made with your card. In addition, if a hacker obtains your credit card number, they can’t use it to withdraw money from your bank account.
- Designate one credit card for internet purchases and transactions. If the card is compromised, you can instantly shut it down without affecting other purchases.
Secure your personal information
- Password-protecting your online store accounts requires special care. Don’t make your password something obvious, like a birthday or a common word. Combining alphabetic characters with numeric and symbolic ones is preferable.
- You must use two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your online store accounts. It requires a verification code in addition to your password for added security.
Understand return and refund policies
- Check the online store’s return policies to see if your purchase is eligible for a refund. If you receive an incorrect or otherwise unsuitable item, you can avoid unnecessary hassle by familiarising yourself with the return procedure in advance.
- Always hold on to your receipts and email confirmations of orders as proof of payment.
When shopping on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN
- When using a public Wi-Fi network, it is vital to use a VPN to protect your online purchases from prying eyes.
- A VPN can help you protect your online activity by encrypting data. It prevents confidential information like passwords and credit card numbers from being intercepted using a public Wi-Fi network.
What to do if ripped off?
It is essential to fight back if you have become the victim of ripped off. Raise your voice to alert others and warn the sellers, lest they dupe unwary customers.
Warn the sellers
Informing the fraudulent party of your actions is optional but may help resolve the issue. Telling them you’ll take serious action if they don’t address the matter fairly and honestly gives them a chance to change. In particular, you can indicate your willingness to face criminal fraud charges.
Record every detail
You should save any correspondence (emails, messages, and order confirmations) with the vendor. You may need these records if you take the matter to a higher level.
Dispute the charge
You can dispute a credit card charge by contacting your provider. Describe the circumstances and offer any supporting data you have to substantiate your claim.
You may get your money back using credit card companies’ buyer protection policies.
Use e-commerce dispute resolution platforms
Some platforms offer dispute resolution. Report your dispute and get help on these platforms. For eBay and PayPal transactions, dispute resolution is available.
File a complaint
If all else fails, consider submitting a complaint to the appropriate authorities or consumer protection organisations. They can look into the situation and take legal action against dishonest sellers. Consult your neighbourhood’s consumer protection office or online fraud reporting portals for advice.
If you take the necessary precautions, online shopping can be a secure and enjoyable experience. You can safeguard yourself from getting ripped off while taking advantage of e-commerce convenience by being aware of the risks, using safe online shopping techniques, and staying informed.