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18 popular online shopping fraud tricks: how to protect yourself

Online shopping can help you save money and gain access to a wide range of products, but there are also disadvantages to this shopping method. Hackers and other criminals are constantly trying to trick buyers by offering fake deals and discounts. According to a recent Better Business Bureau report, online shopping fraud is the second most risky type after recruitment fraud, writes GoBankingRates.

Photo: Shutterstock

Knowing the most common frauds and pitfalls that online shoppers face, you can provide the best investment for your finances.

1. Requests for payment by bank transfer

Be careful if the seller asks you to make a bank transfer or another way to transfer money, including a gift card, as payment for your order. In this case, it is likely that your money will go directly into the fraudster’s pocket and you will not receive anything. If you want to protect yourself, always pay with a credit card or other secure payment methods.

2. Links sent using text messages

If you receive a random text message asking you to click on a link that advertises an amazing deal or offers to cancel a certain service, this is most likely a fraud. This is a way to get you to give out personal information by clicking on the link or sharing information in another similar way.

3. Fake sites or domains

If you shop on a fake website, you could end up with a fake - something completely different from what was advertised, or nothing at all. One way to determine if you are viewing a fake website is to look at the domain name. Generally, most legitimate URLs do not contain extraneous characters or misspellings. The sellers' websites have simple names and usually correspond to their trademarks. For example, the domain name for fashion brand Michael Kors is MichaelKors.com, and for Gucci it is Gucci.com.

You can also check if the website has a universal seal of approval, such as Norton Secured Seal, or check when the domain was created using Whois.

4. Incredible discounts

Say you are faced with a 95% discount advertisement for your favorite product or item. You click on an ad and get to a website where you can shop. You enter your personal information to receive the product. At this point, the fraudster received your information and is ready to leave you with nothing.

If you are skeptical about the deal, see how much the product costs in other stores. A simple price comparison can help you determine if the transaction is truly legal or just an attempt to take hold of your money or information.

5. Avoid shopping when you use public Wi-Fi

Be careful when using a public Wi-Fi connection and completely avoid it if you intend to buy goods and enter payment information. The likelihood of identity theft is increasing! Sometimes online criminals create a Wi-Fi network similar to the one you expect to use, hoping that you will connect to it. If you have to use public Wi-Fi, make sure that you are also logged into the virtual private network.

6. Phishing emails

Such letters can arrive at any time of the year, but are usually popular on holidays. It looks like an email from a reputable retailer, mentions a welcome discount, or reports that something went wrong with your order. An email usually has a link that you can click to buy or solve a problem. However, clicking on the link will download malware to your computer.

Double-check your email address to verify the sender’s identity. Also, keep an eye out for bugs and links that require you to provide personal information.

7. Fake delivery notifications

If you received an email from a major shipping service, such as FedEx, which says that your package has been delayed or there is a problem with your order, this could be a phishing scam. As a rule, in such letters you will be asked to click on the link for more information about the alleged problem. But clicking on the link can lead to the download of malware that hackers use to get data from your computer.

Instead of clicking on the link, you should directly visit the shipper's website and use your number to track or confirm the order to check the status of the package.

On the subject: Free products at $ 175: scammers send messages on behalf of Target

8. Lack of contact information

Reputed retailers usually have a summary of who they are in the About Us section, where you can familiarize yourself with the company's history, values, and mission. Legitimate companies also usually have a “Contact Us” section where customers can send service complaints and questions.

The “About Us” or “Contact Us” section can help increase the retailer’s transparency and reliability. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of the website, make sure that the seller has an accessible line of communication with their customers.

9. Reluctance to study the issue

This is no longer a way of fraud, but one of the traps that you can fall into by mistake. By doing your own research and comparing websites, you get an idea of ​​the average cost of a product available on the market. Price comparisons give you the best opportunity to find out if a transaction is legal or fraudulent. Without doing research, you can get into trouble.

10. Non-tracking of their accounts

Although you do not always want to pay with a credit card, this can help you quickly track fraudulent activities and avoid other mistakes when shopping online. It is advisable to regularly check balances on your accounts and credit card transactions in order to detect any unusual expenses and unauthorized purchases in time. If you see something like this, report it immediately.

11. Fake websites and coupon pages

Beware of clicking on coupons on social networks. If the coupon comes from the official page of the seller’s social network, then this should be completely obvious. In many cases, fake coupons appear on social media pages that claim to be associated with retailers.

For example, you stumbled upon a deal at Ross that is not being promoted on any of the official Ross media platforms. Instead of assuming the deal is a secret, contact your local store or try to track the deal on Ross's official website. Otherwise, you are vulnerable to malware attacks.

12. Too early purchase of goods

When you browse the “Sales” section of the Internet, pay particular attention to the positions of the final sale. This does not always mean the final price. In fact, retailers sometimes lower prices for such goods.

So what is the point of the final sale? Disperse lovers to make refunds. According to Invesp, an e-commerce analytic site, 30% of items ordered online are returned, compared with 8% of items purchased at the store.

13. Subscribe to unnecessary alerts

Although you don’t want to miss out on a bargain, subscribing to multiple mailing lists can mean a mailbox overflow. Of course, stocks have a short shelf life, but most likely there will be another one soon.

Instead of getting information about promotions about everything in a row every day, it's best to subscribe to promotions when you are looking for something. Thus, you can give your mailbox a break and not succumb to the temptation of unnecessary items for sale.

14. Excessive trust reviews

Positive priced products and services have a big impact on new customers, and retailers know this. This is a way to get an idea of ​​a product that cannot be seen or touched. A 2018 survey from ReviewTracker found that 63,6% of people check reviews on the Web before coming to the store. As a result, some online stores pay for positive reviews.

In order not to be deceived by fake reviews, beware of reviews that lack specific information about a product or service. Also pay attention to the dates of the reviews. If a large number of positive reviews were published at the same time, this may indicate that the reviews were paid.

15. Extra purchases for free shipping

Online shopping is fun, but you have to pay for shipping too. Retailers often entice you by offering free shipping if you spend a certain amount of money. This sounds like a good deal, but it could end up spending even more money by adding another item to meet the free shipping minimum. This additional item usually replaces any shipping you didn't want to pay, or more. Stay tuned to sellers who offer free shipping all year round.

16. Fake applications

Before you download the Black Friday app or other similar app to find big discounts and deals, make sure the app is legal. A 2017 RiskIQ study found that one in 25 Black Friday apps is a scam designed to steal personal information or download malware onto a user's phone or laptop. Download only official store apps or trusted well-known apps like FatWallet and DealNews.

17. "Designer" products with big discounts

Even if you buy the product on a reputable site such as Amazon, Walmart or eBay, you can still get fake goods sold by one of the third-party sellers. A 2018 study by the US Government Accountability Office found that 20 of the 47 products that the organization purchased from third-party sellers on popular consumer websites were counterfeit.

The telltale sign of a counterfeit item is a price that seems too good to be true. As a rule, it is.

18. Hidden shipping cost

We all had a moment when we noticed that the total amount in the basket is much higher than we thought. This may be the result of hidden shipping costs, such as shipping charges for individual items. Or perhaps the site advertises “free shipping,” but only for buyers who pay annual memberships or other fees.

Before filling your cart on any shopping site, make sure you know how much you will pay for shipping. Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to choose the “pick up at store” option or get free shipping promo codes on sites like RetailMeNot.

On the subject: The 6 most common scam schemes in the US: how to protect yourself

Protect yourself

Shopping online is easy and convenient, which makes it a popular way to shop. But at the same time, it's easy to fall prey to scammers. To make sure you're buying safely, follow these tips.

Verify the authenticity of the website or application

The easiest way to spot a questionable website or app is by misspelling the name or URL - if something's wrong, don't click or download.

Secure sites usually start with "https: //" rather than "http: //", so please note this distinction before trusting a website. Another way to check if a site is safe is to run it through Safe Web Search. Norton.

When choosing an application, stick to the brands and developers you have heard about and trust. Alternatively, you can check if the company has been accredited or received complaints by doing a search on BBB.org.

Do not be too confident in the reviews.

Reviews are easy to fake, so don't trust everything you read. Some signs of fake reviews include overuse of personal pronouns, lack of specific details, concurrent reviews, and poor grammar.

Of course, not all reviews are fake, and real reviews can be a useful tool when making a purchase decision. However, do not let reviews be your primary and final determining factor in your purchase.

Explore Stores

One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is to shop online. If you see a price for an item that is significantly lower - or higher than its price on other sites, that is a good indicator that it is a fraudulent or counterfeit product.

Google Shopping is also a good way to find the right product on a reliable site and compare prices online. It also shows shipping costs, so you can compare the full price of an item, not just the advertised price.

Pay by credit card

Always choose to pay by credit card rather than an individual payment, bank transfer or PayPal. Credit card transactions can be easily tracked, and it also protects you from any unauthorized payments or charges for goods. Most credit card companies do not charge for any disputed expenses.

Do not provide personal information to online merchants

You should never provide bank account information, your social security number, or your date of birth to an online merchant. A site that requests this information is likely to be fraudulent.

Remember: if something looks too good to be true, usually it is

Designer products with significant discounts, sites offering 90% off hot products, coupons for retailers at incredible prices, and sites and products that only have good reviews have one thing in common - they are probably fake. If something seems too good to be true, trust your intuition and walk away.

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