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5 Common Scams Online Shoppers Need to Know About

We live in an incredible time where it’s normal to order an entire week’s worth of groceries from the comfort of one’s couch. Like anything, the phenomenon of online shopping brings with it pros and cons. How can you trust an online store to deliver your product? Will it arrive in tact and on time? How can you trust anything from just a photograph? While many online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers. Knowing when to avoid or when to trust an e-commerce platform may take some practice, and we have outlined some pro tips on when to recognize those red flags before making your purchase.

1. “Second Chance” Online Auction Scams
When you lose a bid at a reputable auction site, such as eBay, Overstock.com or Yahoo! Auctions, scammers may offer you a “second chance” to purchase the same product. These scammers troll sites by creating fake accounts and include themselves in the bidding process by offering low amounts. If you are approached by someone after losing a bid, and lured to an unrecognizable site, this is very likely a “second chance” scam. Likely, the scammer will collect your personal information, accept payment, and walk away. Unlike reputable auctions sites, these dodgy sites have no tracking system, giving scammers complete freedom. The most popular auction sites will never offer buyers a second chance. If you don’t recognize the auction site, don’t use it.
2. Payment Scams.
If a website requests your money through a money order, a pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, this is typically a scam. With these methods of payment, tracing back to the seller is nearly impossible. In case the order is “missing” or arrives battered, you will not be able to dispute the charges. If the site accepts payment via PayPal, Buyer Protections services will assist you if your order never arrived, isn’t as described, damaged, or anything else. Paying with a credit card may also offer a layer of added consumer protection via card member services. This can also help to provide a buffer between potential fraud and your day-to-day accounts.
3. Impossibly Good Products.
If a product is advertised such that it leaves you thinking, “this is too good to be true”, it probably is. Always read customer reviews, however realize that a good variety of opinions is perfectly normal. If every review gives a perfect rating, there is a high chance the website is rigged by the creators. Recently, a BuzzFeed investigation revealed that many sites which offer these “amazing” deals are essentially selling products that are far from what the advertisements and e-commerce sites show. Brands like Choies, SammyDress, RoseWe, or RoseWholesale show images of women wearing high quality clothing, although many of these photos have proven to be stolen from various Instagram accounts, legit e-commerce sites, or international magazines. Avoid these brands, whether they are found on Facebook ads or exist within their own phony e-commerce sites.
4. Fishy-Looking Emails.
If you get an email from an e-commerce company and it appears strange, be on the lookout. Scammers use a tactic called phishing, which is the creation of authentic-looking emails from trusted companies in order to steal personal information. If you receive an email confirmation from a company, it should not direct you to a site asking for more information. Typically, legitimate confirmation emails will arrive in your inbox minutes after you ordered the item. If you receive any emails at odd times, even if the email has the official logo, be wary. If you don’t see any reason to enter personal information, this is likely a scam.

A common phishing scam, which has gained more attention lately, are emails claiming to be from LinkedIn. Primarily because of the wealth of data it offers on employees at corporations, this platform is a great source for clever scammers. The typical scam includes mining that data to identify potential marks for business email compromise attacks, including wire transfer and W-2 social engineering scams. With this scam, someone on LinkedIn (typically someone with InMail who can contact anyone on LinkedIn directly) sends you a message with a link to a scam or spam website. The best way to spot this type of scam is to look for the email address of the sender. If it’s not an email address from LinkedIn.com, this is very likely a scam.

5. Fake Websites
In recent years, a number of fake websites have surfaced, masking as legitimate. These sites may have credible-looking photos, logos and payment options. Don’t be fooled - it doesn’t take that much for fraudsters to create an authentic looking website. If you are wondering whether or not the site is trustworthy, the most important thing to check is the domain name. Look in the address bar of your browser and see what the URL is. If the domain name looks odd, be cautious. For example, a dodgy e-commerce site posing as the official Michael Kors site was recently shutdown and facing legal action. Instead of using the domain name www.MichaelKors.com, the site was www.NewPerfectStyle.com. Besides checking the domain name, look out for poor grammar or spelling, offers that seem too good to be true, or any sort of off-branding.
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