More of us are shopping online than ever before, and more frequently, too. So how can we stay safe from the plethora of shopping scams out there? Use the tips below to navigate the virtual world safely so that you can shop with confidence – and to find out what to do if you suspect you may have been scammed.
Check the Website Carefully
Taking the time to consider a few key factors regarding the retailer’s website is one of the easiest ways to avoid getting caught up in a scam.
Does the site look professional? Are the images high-quality? Is the text error-free? It’s also vital to make sure that, in the address bar of the website, particularly on the check-out page, you see HTTPS rather than just HTTP – this indicates that extra online security measures are in place to protect your personal and payment details.
Check, too, that there are legitimate-looking contact details for the company on the website; if there are none at all, then this is a major red flag that you could be interacting with a scam site. Also, have a look to see if there’s a returns policy and any customer support provision available. And finally, if the item you’re considering buying is being offered at a vastly reduced price than elsewhere, then proceed with caution – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Research Authorized Resellers
Another way to stay safe when buying online is to check that the company you’re buying from, if it’s not the actual manufacturer of the product, is authorized to resell the items. You will usually be able to find a list of authorized resellers on the manufacturer’s website.
This won’t be relevant for all purchases, but for higher ticket items, it’s a good additional check to ensure that the online site you’re dealing with is legit.
Look at Reviews
Having a careful look at a multitude of customer reviews on a variety of different sites is another effective way to stay safe from an online shopping scam. Check the review website top10 ,for example, to view a vast array of reviews and write-ups regarding a range of different products and services.
When looking at reviews, try to get an overall picture of the product or service you’re interested in, and don’t ignore any red flags: if just a few reviews out of hundreds are negative, then you’re probably ok, but if there’s a significant amount of feedback stipulating problems or issues then, however good the price or tempting the deal, you’re probably best steering clear.
Check the Domain Age
Fake and scam shopping sites tend to have a very short life span, as they tend to get discovered and closed down relatively quickly, so finding out the age of the website you’re considering purchasing from is a useful way of ascertaining the likelihood of its legitimacy.
There are various domain trackers available online that’ll give you the information you need, which will tell you how long the particular site has been active.
Initiate a Virus Scan
A good way of checking the credibility – or otherwise – of a site is to run a virus check on it; this may be especially needful if, once you’ve arrived at the website, you’re getting a noticeably high number of pop-ups and ads, and messages on-screen trying to get you to click on a link.
There are several free virus scanners that can make sure a website is secure, including VirusTotal, PhishTank, Is It Hacked, and FTC Scam Alerts. As well as making sure that the site is virus-free, these tools will also check for the presence of malware and phishing threats and will cross-check against a registry of known scam sites.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed Online
If you’ve fallen victim to an online shopping scam, you should first of all report it to the relevant authorities; this can help set the legal processes in motion to get the site shut down and hopefully prevent others from falling victim to the same fraud in the future.
As soon as possible, you should also contact your bank or credit card provider – depending on the payment method you used – if caught quickly enough, they may be able to put a stop to the transaction, thereby preventing the funds from leaving your account. If you used a credit card, you are probably protected according to the card providers’ terms and conditions and may be able, once you’ve reported the scam to them, to get your money returned.
If you’ve created a log-in account on the scam website, and the password is the same or similar to that you use on any other accounts or platforms, then change these details to prevent the scammers from getting further access to your personal details.
Shopping online is a convenient way to make purchases and can offer a much wider range of product choices than relying on the shops that are physically nearby. Just taking a few simple steps can keep you safe from scams so that you can enjoy peace of mind as well as retail therapy!