As the trend of online shopping is increasing so the online shopping scams and frauds. its become very essential for us to know How to avoid online shopping scams?
I strongly believe, self-awareness and online research about the shopping site is the best possible solution to protect ourselves against the online shopping frauds.
It’s a sad reality nowadays, that not only online shopping scams are increasing but they also appear in many forms.
Online shopping scams are not new in fact they exist since the online shopping websites exist.
Before buying anything from any online shopping website, we should know if the website is not fraud. We have to make sure that we are not going to get trapped in any online shopping scams.
Types of online shopping scams:
- Card fraud
- Email scams
- Refund fraud
- Account Hack
- Fraud websites
- Fake coupon websites
Obviously, the above list is not complete in fact there are many more as fraudsters, not only applying new tricks to steal money and personal information but also using the latest technology to cheat people.
So How to avoid online shopping scams and what are the ways to buy something online safe?
In order to avoid online shopping frauds, we have to stay one step ahead of the scammers by not only being aware of online shopping scams but also following the best practices such as:
Using HTTPS websites instead of HTTP, use antivirus, avoid fake coupon website, use a secure method of payment, Buy from the trusted shopping websites, avoid fraud website and using other methods.
I will be discussing all of these methods in details which if followed correctly, definitely they can reduce the risk of online shopping frauds.
First let’s start with, Fraud websites which is One of the most common ways to cheat people online.
A fraud or fake website not only look similar to the original website but sometimes also use the stolen logo, designs and pictures of the original websites.
How to know if a shopping website is fake?
If you see a websites poor in design & layout, contain lots of grammatical mistakes, poor content quality, Have long or misspelled URL, Using lots of pop up, prices are looking too good to be real, showing urgency to make payment, have confusing website & product return policies and absence of customer support option.
A website with poor user experience could be a fraud website, even if not, still why to shop from such a website.
Online shopping sites invest a huge amount of money on their website to enrich the overall user experience.
Definitely, we should always avoid such sites as we have ample shopping opportunities in online market space.
Also, Check – Top 10 most popular online shopping sites in India.
Now let’s discuss in details, how we can apply a few of the best security policies to protect us from online shopping frauds.
Search about the site
Searching for an online shopping website is extremely necessary before shopping anything from a new or less trusted website.
Check following things before buying anything from any website :
- Presence of the website in social media and if available check what customers are sharing about their experience and are they receiving a timely response to their queries & complain from website social media support team.
- Google “website name + frauds”, “website name + cheat”, “website name + scam” and “website name+ complaint”. You will get bulk of the links of websites and forums where people will be discussing and sharing their experiences.
- Product return, refund, exchange, and shipping policy.
- Do they have physical address present on the website and if possible verify it using online or offline methods.
Also, Check – How to save money on online shopping?
For safe online shopping from any site, we should always check customer review.
We learn when we read when we see when we experience but sometime its best to learn from other people experiences, reading reviews of a product on an online shopping site is one of the way where we learn from people experience.
What to check in customer reviews to buy something online?
Check if most of the customers are complaining about following things in their review:
- Poor customer service and quality of the product
- Delay in product delivery exchange, refund or no refund.
- Wrong product delivered and the offer they have not received.
- Extra hidden charges if they paid any in product delivery or return
Avoid reaching any shopping decision based on a small number of customer review as not only they can easily be manipulated but also it’s also difficult to reach any conclusion.
If the website is new or less known and does not have customer review option and avoid that site.
If you are seeing any of the above red flags in customer reviews avoid buying from the site.
Also, Check – Why you should avoid shopping offline and buy online?
SSL encryption and a padlock symbol
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.
In short, it ensures the data that passes between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. In order to enable SSL authentication websites required, SSL certificate provided by a Certificate authority.
Don’t buy from the online shopping sites which do not have SSL enabled, to check if a website has SSL enabled :
- The URL starts from HTTPS in place of HTTP.
- Padlock system would be present in the website address bar.
Always choose a secure method of payment
I searched about on the most secure way of paying online and the answer I received is using a credit card.
A credit card comes with better fraud protection & security mechanism, simplicity in charge reversal and sometimes with limited fraud liability if informed timely.
However, I personally believe if available pay on delivery is a much better option than choosing a credit card or any other financial instrument. because of the following reasons:
- If product delivery taking longer than the actual time you can cancel the order and don’t have to wait for the reversal.
- You will not feel cheated even if they will not deliver the product.
- Before paying, You can check product quality, genuineness and if box pack really contain the product and not soap.
- You don’t need to provide them your credit /debit card numbers or other details.
- You don’t have to make payment until and unless they deliver the product.
In case if the website does not have cash on delivery option, then the other option is using a virtual credit card.
Virtual credit cards are the safest and best option for online shopping considering they can only be used once and have the option to set up a limit.
Your maximum risk would be up to the limit you have set up on your virtual card.
Use a physical credit card, PayPal account or other options on only well known, trusted and established online shopping sites.
However, For new shopping sites, I believe cash on delivery and a virtual card is the better option.
Check your Bank/Credit/Debit card statement
If you are one of them who rarely check, bank statements or check it when it generates, Then the one thing I would strongly recommend is to check it frequently basis at least after you order something online.
Check if the shopping sites charged you something extra, is there any fraudulent charges on your bill, did they returned you the complete amount for your returned order or does they charge you something for the failed order.
If you see any of the charges or other extra charges mentioned, immediately call the customer care of your credit card company or online shopping sites and ask of the clarification.
Start Buying in the small quantity first
If you are buying first time on any e-commerce shopping site, it’s wise to buy something low in value initially.
Once delivered, Check product quality, delivery time, customer service and if it was really worth buying.
Until and unless you don’t build trust on the site don’t order anything of larger value.
Even if your past few orders delivered with no issue, it doesn’t mean they can’t cheat you in future.
Don’t build blind trust on any website, check everything every time, remain alerted always.
Don’t click on suspicious links in emails and texts
Avoid clicking on a suspicious email or text message that is supposedly from your bank or shopping site asking you to or click on the link to confirm your order or asking you to “verify your information” or something else.
Pay special attention and caution when you have not made a purchase or transaction section recently.
If required, check directly with the site or bank if they have sent any message or email.
Generally, these suspicious emails have a generic greeting or salutation, for example, Dear customer, Dear member, valued customer.
Most of the time these emails contain poor spelling and grammatical mistakes have an urge to take some action, use a free or suspicious email address, and sometimes even sometimes contain a link to a fake website.
In order to know more about these emails or Advance-fee scams, check the Advance-fee scam article on Wikipedia to gain more knowledge about it.
We should never click on a suspicious link in the email or download an attachment from an unknown email sender.
Avoid using Public internet and computer
Always use a secure internet connection and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots.
You should not only avoid them in online shopping but also when making any financial transactions.
I have two solid reasons to ask you to avoid Wi-Fi and Computers in order to avoid online shopping frauds:
First, they can easily be infected with malware, viruses or trojans considering anybody can use them.
Second, in most of the cases, they don’t encrypt your data and hence net surfing is not secure as well.
Fraudsters can use these public internets or computers to steal your personal information using software and tools.
In case of urgency, use your mobile and internet which is obviously much secure than public WiFi Hotspots or computer.
Avoid Fake coupon sites
If there are real coupon sites, then there are fake websites too.
Fake coupon websites can cheat you by redirecting you to another site loaded with viruses, malware or ransomware.
They even can allow spammers to collect your personal or financial details by making you click on the unknown link.
Avoid clicking on the coupon link on coupon websites rather directly go to the original seller websites and apply it.
Antivirus and Updates
When we talk about online security, we should always be at the top of internet security by using an antivirus.
An antivirus not only keeps our system and web browsing safe but also warn us about unsafe websites.
Always buy an antivirus which has online internet security features, Nowadays most of the antivirus comes with this feature.
Additionally, we should always keep our system and software updated with the latest fixes and patches.
Generally, operating system and software companies release these fixes on time to time basis for known problems and vulnerabilities.
In addition to the above, clear the browsing history, cookies and temp files on a frequent basis.
Password and Email address
It’s always wise to keep the login password safe, strong and secure by making it long in length.
A password should include alphanumeric characters and should be changed on time to time basis.
Also, Avoid using the same email address and password for all purposes for example online shopping, Banking, and social sites.
Even the password should also be unique for different purposes and shopping sites.
Which, if followed and applied correctly, can definitely reduce the risk of us cheated online.
Self-awareness is the best solution against online shopping scams,
The riskiest thing people do when they become too much greedy. A less aware greedy person is an easy target for these scammers.
We should always keep our knowledge updated and greed in control.
Online shopping sites are also there to make money, maybe not now but in the long-term.
Trust me, nothing is free in this world. Everything has a price, It may be hidden but it would always be there.
Always be aware, be safe, do research, always do safe shopping and avoid online shopping scams.