Online shopping scams and frauds are increasing with the increasing trend of online shopping. It’s now become the need of the hour to know how to avoid online shopping scams.
Fraudsters are applying new tricks and using the latest technology to steal our money and personal information. Online shopping scams are as old as the existence of online shopping sites.
I strongly trust self-awareness, research about the shopping site, and following the best security policies are the best defense strategies against online shopping frauds.
Before we jump to the security policies, it’s essential to know about the most common types of online shopping scams:
- Card fraud
- Email scams
- Refund fraud
- Account Hack
- Fraud websites
- Fake coupon websites
So How you can avoid online shopping scams and what are the ways you to buy something online safe?
In short, to avoid online shopping frauds, you have to be one step ahead of the scammers by being aware of online shopping scams and following the best practices such as:To avoid online shopping scams use HTTPS websites instead of HTTP, Use antivirus, avoid fake coupon websites, choose a secure method of payment, buy from the trusted shopping websites, and follow other best security policies. Click To Tweet
One of the most common ways to cheat people online is Fraud websites. These websites look like a legitimate site. Sometimes, even use the stolen logo, designs, and pictures of legitimate sites.
How to know if a shopping website is Fraud or fake?
Fraud websites have poor design & layout, uses lots of pop up, have long and misspelled URLs, lack good quality content, and have grammatical errors.
In addition to that, Prices on fake or fraud websites looks too good to be real. They show urgency to make a payment, have confusing website & product return policies, and sometimes even absence of customer support option.
Online shopping sites invest a large amount of money on their website design to enrich the overall user experience but still if you see a website with poor user experience and design, it could be a fraud website.
You should always avoid shopping from any such sites which have a poor user experience. Even assuming for a minute, they are not fraud still why to buy from a website in doubt.
Also, Check – Top 10 most popular online shopping sites in India.
Following are the few of the best security policies, I have been using to protect myself from online shopping frauds. I think these will be equally useful to you as well:
Search about the site:
I always search about the site before buying anything from the site, especially if the site is a new, unknown and less trusted website. I asked my friends if they have bought anything and their shopping experience with that site.
In addition to that, I also check the 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 the website social media support team.
- Search on Google “website name + frauds”, “website name + cheat”, “website name + scam” or “website name+ complaint”. You will get bulk of the links of websites and forums where people will be discussing and sharing their experiences.
- Check on the site about their product return, refund, exchange, and shipping policy.
- Check if they have their physical address updated 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 reviews.We learn when we read when we see when we experience but sometimes its best to learn from others experiences. In the online shopping, reading reviews of a product on a site is one of the ways to learn from people experience. Click To Tweet
What to check in customer reviews to buy something online?
You should check if customers are complaining about the following things in their review:
- Poor customer service and quality of the product
- View complaints related to product delivery exchange, refund or no refund.
- Wrong product delivered and the offer they have not received.
- Check if the customers are paying extra charges in product delivery or return
In addition to avoiding sites which have any of the above red flags in their customer reviews, also avoid which are new and lesser-known and does not have customer review option.
Avoid reaching to any shopping decision, based on a small number of customer review. As not only they can easily be manipulated, but also, it’s difficult to reach any conclusion.
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, SSL encryption ensures the data that passes between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. To enable SSL authentication websites uses, 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.
- Check if the Padlock system is there in the website address bar.
Always choose a secure method of payment
I searched for the most secure way of paying online and the answer I got, was 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 believe if available pay on delivery is a much better option than doing a transaction using a credit card or any other financial instrument. I have the following reasons:
- If product delivery taking longer than the usual time, you can cancel the order and don’t have to wait for the reversal.
- We don’t have to make payment until and unless they deliver the product.
- You will not feel cheated even when the shopping site will not deliver the product.
- We can verify the product before paying them, sometimes I even saw people, receiving soap instead of ordered mobile.
- You don’t need to provide them your credit /debit card numbers or other details.
Not every site has cash on delivery option, for all such cases use a virtual credit card.Virtual credit cards are the safest and best option for online shopping as you can set up them for only one-time use and with a maximum limit set for that transaction. Click To Tweet
The best part is, Your maximum risk would be up to the limit you have set up on your virtual card.
Use a physical credit card, PayPal account, and other options, on only well known and trusted shopping sites. For new shopping sites, cash on delivery and a virtual card are the better option.
Disable international transaction on your credit/debit card
One of the most common ways for online shopping fraud is by stealing credit/debit card information. In most of these cases, fraudsters transect with stolen card numbers overseas so that they cant get caught easily.
If you disable international transactions, they would not be able to use your cards anywhere except your home country. Result in, reduced risk of getting trapped in online shopping frauds.
Check your Bank/Credit/Debit card statement
If you rarely check, bank and credit card statement, Then I would recommend to do it, at least after ordering something online.
Check if the shopping site charged you something extra in the bill and any fraudulent transaction. After returning anything check if you got the complete amount refund.
If you see any extra charges on your bill, immediately call the customer care of your credit card company or online shopping sites and ask for 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 first.
Don’t blindly trust in any new or less known shopping website. Do check everything every time, and remain alert always, even if your past orders delivered without any issues.The basic principle of fishing is, you need good bait to attracts a good size fish to your hook. Similarly, Fraudsters offers the highest and unbelievable discount on expensive products. Click To Tweet
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.
Many times, these emails contain poor spelling and grammatical mistakes, urge to take some action, use a free or suspicious email address, and a link to a fake website.
To know more about these emails or Advance-fee scams, check the Advance-fee scam article on Wikipedia.
I would recommend you to 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 avoid them in online shopping and when doing any financial transactions.
I have two solid reasons for you to avoid public Wi-Fi and Computers:
First, they can easily be infected with malware, viruses, and trojans, considering anybody can use them.
Second, mostly, they don’t encrypt your data, and hence, net surfing is not secure as well.
Fraudsters can use public internet and computers to steal your personal information using software and tools. If required, use your mobile, which is more secure than them.
Avoid Fake coupon sites:
Do you know, 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, and ransomware.
These websites can allow spammers to collect your personal and financial details by making you click on the unknown link. You should avoid clicking on the coupon link on coupon websites better directly go to the original seller site 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.
You should always buy an antivirus which has online internet security features, nowadays most of the antivirus comes with this feature.
Operating system and software companies release regular fixes and updates for known system problems and vulnerabilities. You should always keep our system and software updated with the latest fixes and patches.
Regularly clear, the browsing history, cookies and temp files of your system, and mobile.
Password and Email address
You should keep your login password safe, secure, and hard to crack. Make your password longer in length, include alphanumeric characters, and change it regularly.
In addition to that, you should avoid using the same email address, and password for all purposes, for example, online shopping, Banking, and social sites.
You know people do the riskiest thing when they become too much greedy. Scammers continuously look for greedy and less aware soft targets to have them trapped in their scams.
Trust me, nothing is free, in this world. Everything has a price; sometimes, hidden but, it would always be there. Online shopping sites are also here to make money.
Self-awareness is the best solution against online shopping scams. Always be aware, do research, do safe shopping, and avoid online shopping scams.