5 common online shopping scams

Online scams are constantly evolving but there are 5 common online shopping scams that you need to be careful of.


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Increasingly more people are choosing to do their shopping online. Online shopping has many advantages, the buyer saves time, can choose from several suppliers and save money while getting the desired product delivered directly to their home. However, with the growing popularity of this type of shopping, there are naturally more opportunities for scammers and Internet criminals.

Online shopping threats:

  • Loss of money;
  • Identity theft;
  • Defective products.


Types of online frauds

Below you will find descriptions of the classic fraud schemes. However, do bear in mind that the list is not complete, as scammers continually come up with new ways to trick people.

Fake online store. This is perhaps the most popular scam. To start, a group of scammers create a legitimate looking website with a catchy name that may resemble another popular store name. Similar names may confuse shoppers and make them lower their guard. The fake store may have all kinds of different items with perfect descriptions and even reviews. However, the prices will be significantly lower than in other shops. By displaying low prices and having huge discounts, the online store will attract gullible people. But excessively low prices will also cause suspicion, so you will often see fake stores justifying their discounts by claiming it’s for an occasion like a birthday, or an opening.

The purchase process may not cause suspicion, but even after completing the purchase, you would not get anything.

Signs of a fake online store:

  • Suspiciously low prices;
  • The store’s name is similar to a known/famous online store;
  • When making a purchase, the company’s name is not stated anywhere, but a natural person and his/her bank account number is specified instead. However, the company’s name being displayed somewhere does not mean it’s legitimate, as the company can be set up for fraudulent purposes or non-existent;
  • There is little information about the store on the internet. However, you might come across of only overly positive reviews on the store, which is also a red flag;
  • Store domain name is registered recently.


The store or service site is designed to steal user data. There are many fraudulent stores designed to steal information from users. Such stores often offer to give away things to free, or for a small price. However, users are asked to register first if they want the item. The information requested is often very sensitive and not necessary for purchasing. You could be asked to provide your full contact information, payment card data, and even your ID or social security number. In some cases, scammers even ask for an ID or a passport scan. The acquired information is usually sold to other scammers and hackers.

Hidden fees. You may be lured into shopping on a fraudulent website only to later realize that you would be paying more than expected because of hidden fees. These hidden fees are called so because they are generally concealed until the very end when the full sum is displayed. The purpose of the fee would depend on what you are purchasing, and it could come up to $10-20. Thus, by buying something at a discounted price you could actually end up paying more.

Defective or counterfeit goods. There are many cases when people buy poor quality goods, ones that do not match the photos, or are completely different items. The seller could even send you something that resembles what you ordered in size and weight so that you would sign and confirm you received your order.

Trap for careless buyers. This is a relatively new way of scamming people. A buyer may be trying to purchase some item (which has a description and a photo) and not notice that the item he/she is purchasing is actually only a photo of the item. The fact that it’s only a photo would be stated but in such small print that the buyer would not notice unless he/she is paying very close attention.

8 tips for shopping online

  • Make sure the seller is reliable. Only buy from sellers/stores you completely trust, and always read the terms and conditions. You should also never buy anything offered in spam emails;
  • Do not make purchases from a computer that’s not your own. You do not know what kind of programs are installed on computers that are not your own, thus making any kind of purchases via them is not recommended. Some kind of spyware or malware could be installed, and if you were to log in somewhere (social media, email, bank, etc.), everything you type could be recorded and transferred to cyber criminals;
  • Don’t make purchases from an unsecure network. If you decide to go shopping when connected to public WiFi, keep in mind that hackers can try to direct your network traffic through their controlled servers. You could be redirected to a fraudulent bank website when trying to make a purchase, which could lead to your banking login credentials being stolen. Use a VPN, switch to mobile network or wait until you can use safe WiFi to make your online purchases;
  • Make sure your computer is not infected with malware. Install anti-spyware software, and perform regular scans. You should also regularly install software and operating system updates;
  • Be cautious of sellers/stores that request an unusual amount of personal information. When making a purchase always consider whether the seller actually needs the personal data it’s requesting. Reliable websites will only ask for personal information that is absolutely necessary for purchasing/delivery;
  • Make sure that payments are done using SSL via HTTPS;
  • Save all money transfer related data. The confirmation emails are like receipts you receive in physical stores;
  • Create a separate bank account for online shopping. Open a separate bank account with a separate card that you will only use for online shopping. When making a purchase, transfer funds into it but do not keep large sums of money on it. If your card data was leaked or stolen, you would likely not lose any money.