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18 common risks of online shopping and how to protect yourself

Online shopping is convenient and economical. But this kind of shopping has its drawbacks. Hackers and other online criminals are constantly trying to trick shoppers with fake deals and discounts. According to a recent report from the Better Business Bureau, online shopping fraud is the second most risky type of fraud after job fraud. GOBankingRates.

Photo: DepositphotosOnline shopping concept

Although online shopping does not always lead to identity theft, there are other risks. You can lose money, get a fake product, or get nothing at all. By knowing the most common types of fraud that online shoppers face, you can protect yourself. What you should pay attention to?

You are asked to pay by bank transfer.

Please note if the seller asks you to make a bank transfer, money transfer or pay for the order with a gift card. It is likely that your money will fall into the pocket of a scammer and you will not receive the goods. If you want to protect yourself, always pay with a credit card or other secure payment methods.

You received a link in a text message

If you get a random text message asking you to click on a link that advertises some awesome discount or offers to cancel a certain service, it's most likely cheating. Such links are a way to get you to give out personal information.

“Scam professionals use text messages that prompt you to click on links or provide personal information in response to a text message from a recipient who appears to be a trusted source,” said Stephen J. Jay Weissman, author of Identity Theft Alert. and other strategies ”.

You are logged in to a fake site or domain

If you shop on a fake website, you may get a fake, something completely different or nothing at all.

One way to spot a fake website is to look at the domain name. Generally, most legitimate URLs do not contain extraneous characters or misspellings. Retailer websites have simple names and usually correspond to their brand names. For example, the domain name for fashion brand Michael Kors is, and for Gucci it is

You can also check if the website has a universal seal of approval, such as Norton Secured Seal. This print usually indicates that according to Consumer Reports, the website is trustworthy. You can also use the service. Check when the domain was created.

You are offered incredible discounts.

Say you are faced with an advertisement offering a 95% discount on your favorite product. You click on the ad and get to the site where you can make a purchase. There you enter your personal information to receive the product. At this point, the scammer receives your information and leaves you with nothing.

If you are skeptical about the discount, look at what price the product is sold in other stores. Making a simple price comparison can help you determine if the transaction is truly legal or simply an attempt to lure you into a fraudulent trap.

On the subject: 13 lifehacks for shopping at Costco, about which experienced buyers are silent

You use public Wi-Fi for shopping

Be careful when using a public Wi-Fi connection and completely avoid it if you intend to buy goods and enter payment information. In this case, the likelihood of identity theft increases. Sometimes Internet criminals create a Wi-Fi network similar to the one you expect to use, hoping for your connection.

You receive phishing emails

Phishing emails can be sent out at any time of the year, but this is the most popular holiday fraud method. Often this looks like an email from a reputable retailer about a discount or with a message that something went wrong with your order. In the email there is usually a link that you can click on supposedly in order to receive the declared discount or solve the problem with the order. However, clicking on the link will download malware to your computer.

Double-check your email address to verify the sender’s identity. In addition, pay attention to spelling errors, as well as links that require you to provide your personal information, the Etsy website recommends.

You receive fake delivery notifications

If you received an email from a major shipping service, such as FedEx, which says that your package is being delayed or there is a problem with the order, it could be a phishing scam. As a rule, this kind of electronic appeal asks you 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 information 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.

You cannot find seller contacts

Reputable retailers usually have a summary of who they are in the About Us section, where you can check the company's history, values, and mission. Legitimate companies also usually have a “Contact Us” section, where the buyer can leave a complaint or ask questions about the service.

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 available customer service line.

You are not exploring offers

After conducting your own research and comparing sites, you will 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. If you do not, you risk overpaying for the product or becoming a victim of scammers.

You do not track your bills

It’s better to pay by credit card, this will help you quickly track fraudulent activities and avoid other mistakes when making purchases on the Internet. It is advisable to regularly check account balances and credit card activity so that you can detect any unusual expenses and unauthorized purchases. If this happens, report it immediately.

You visit fake coupon sites

Beware of clicking on coupons on social networks. If the coupon came from the official page of the seller’s social network, there are no problems. Fake coupons appear on social media pages that claim to be associated with retailers.

For example, you stumbled upon a deal in a store that is not advertised on any of the official media platforms of this store. Instead of suggesting that the transaction is an internal secret of the company, contact your local store or try to track the transaction on the official website. Otherwise, you are vulnerable to malware attacks.

On the subject: Cyber ​​fraudsters empty pension accounts: how to protect yourself

You buy early on the final sales

As you browse the "Sale" section of the Internet, pay special attention to items that are marked as "final sale". This does not always mean the final prices. According to statistics, when selling off leftovers, retailers can reduce the price more than once.

You have subscribed to too many alerts

While you don't want to miss out on a great deal, subscribing to many mailing lists can get your inbox full and you miss out on something important. Undoubtedly, stocks have a short shelf life, but there will likely be another one soon. Instead of receiving information about all promotions, it is better to subscribe to those related to the search for a specific product - this way you will not buy too much.

You trust reviews too much

Positive feedback products and services have a big impact on new customers, and retailers are aware of this. A 2018 survey by ReviewTracker found that 63,6% of people will check reviews on Google before visiting a company. Some online retailers pay for positive reviews.

To avoid being fooled by fake reviews, beware of those who do not have 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 about the same time, this could indicate that they were all paid.

You buy more to get free shipping

Shopping online is fun until you remember to pay for shipping. Retailers often lure you by offering free shipping after ordering for a certain amount. In this case, you risk spending more by adding products that you don't really need. Even one extra item usually pays for the shipping you didn't want to pay. Shop where free shipping is offered all year round.

You are using fake apps

Before you download discount search apps, make sure they are legal. A 2017 RiskIQ study found that one in 25 Black Friday shopping apps is a scam designed to steal personal information or download malware onto a user's phone or laptop. To avoid this scam, only download the official store apps or trusted apps like FatWallet and DealNews, Consumer Reports says.

You choose “designer” products with discounts

Even if you buy a product from a reputable site like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay, you can still get a fake product sold by one of the third-party sellers. A 2018 study found that 20 of 47 products the organization purchased from third-party sellers on popular consumer websites were counterfeit. The telltale sign of a counterfeit product is a price that seems too good to be real.

You do not track hidden shipping costs

Everyone had a situation where you accidentally discovered that the total amount in the basket is much higher than you thought. This may be the result of hidden shipping costs, such as separate shipping charges for individual items. Or, perhaps the site advertises “free shipping,” but only for buyers who pay annual membership or other fees.

Before filling out the basket on any shopping site, make sure that you know how much they will charge for delivery so that you can determine whether or not to actually order online. Sometimes you can avoid fees by choosing the pick up at the store option or by finding free delivery promo codes on sites like RetailMeNot.

On the subject: 10 seemingly profitable deals that are actually scams

How to protect yourself

Online shopping is easy and convenient. To make sure you're safe, 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 is wrong, don't click or download anything.

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

Stick to brands and app developers you've heard of and trust. In addition, you can check if the company has been accredited or received complaints by searching on

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, several reviews published simultaneously, and poor grammar, according to MarketWatch.

Of course, not all reviews are fake, and reviews can be a useful tool when making a purchase decision. However, don't let reviews be your main and final point of support when it comes to buying.

Go to online shopping

One of the best ways to avoid scams is to research stores. If you see a price for an item that is significantly lower or higher than its price on other sites, this is a sure indicator that the product is fake.

Alternatively, you can go to Google Shopping, an easy way to 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 fees for goods that you have not received. Most credit card companies will not charge you for any disputed expenses.

Do not provide personal information to online merchants

Never provide your 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 it looks too good, most likely it’s a hoax

Significantly discounted designer products, sites offering 90% off hot goods, coupons for retailers at incredible prices, sites and only highly reviewed products have one thing in common - they are likely fake. If something seems too good to be true, trust your intuition and walk away.

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