Online shopping scams and how to avoid them

Online shopping scams

More and more people choose to do their shopping online because of the great deals and overall convenience. However, this also means an increase in fake stores that want to scam shoppers. Some of these fake shopping sites can seem completely legitimate at first sight, and even be promoted on social media like Facebook. Unless you are paying close attention, you might not notice the signs pointing to it being a scam. These fake stores are usually more common during the holiday season, so that is a time during which you should be particularly careful.


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How do I know if a website is safe to buy from

If you are an avid online shopper, you need to know how to spot a fake store. Here are some tips:

  • Check reviews. Most legitimate online stores will have social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), so that should be the first thing to look for. Check reviews and read people’s comments. Look out for overly positive ones that look quite generic, as they can easily be fake. Use a search engine to find reviews on other websites as well. If you cannot find anything, this should be a red flag.
  • Be skeptical of huge discounts. A lot of fake stores attract victims by promising huge discounts. For more cautious people, these 50-80% discounts will be a red flag. If an unknown store is selling iPhones or other tech with 80% discounts, it’s reasonable to think it is all a scam. These discounts may be advertised in legitimate ways, such as via Facebook. And when people see something advertised on Facebook, they may become less cautious. As a general rule, if you see huge discounts in an unfamiliar online store, first check that the site is legitimate before buying anything.
  • Check website information. Find information about the store’s website, such as when it was registered. A site registered a month ago may be a cause for suspicion. Also take note of whether the site uses secure communications. Most legitimate stores will have https instead of http. However, just because a site uses https does not automatically make it legitimate.
  • Analyze the contents of the site and look for grammar mistakes. Loads of grammar mistakes can be a sign that something is not right with the store. It’s particularly noticeable in non-English language stores. The language in fake stores often seems awkward, as if it’s been written by Google translate.

What to do if I fell victim to a shopping scam

If you realize that a store is fake after you have already purchased something, you should immediately contact your bank and inform them of the situation. If done in time, the money transfer could be cancelled. If you put in your bank card details when purchasing, request that the bank block your card and any transactions. If you notice any fraudulent transactions in your account, contact law enforcement immediately.