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Top 18 Most Common Online Shopping Risks and How to Protect Yourself from Them

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 scams are the second most risky type of scam after job scams. GOBankingRates.

Photo: Shutterstock

While online shopping does not always lead to identity theft, there are other risks as well. You may lose money, get a fake product, or get nothing at all. By knowing the most common types of scams faced by online shoppers, you can be on the safe side. What you should pay attention to?

You are asked to pay by bank transfer.

You should be alerted if the seller asks you to make a bank transfer, money order, or pay with a gift card. It is likely that your money will end up in a fraudster's pocket and you will not receive the item. If you want to protect yourself, always pay by 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 a scam. Such links are a way to force you to give out personal information.

“Scam professionals use text messages to encourage you to click on links or provide personal information in response to a text message from someone who appears to be a trusted source,” said Stephen Jay Jay Weissman, author of Identity Theft Alert. "They will use other strategies as well."

You are logged in to a fake site or domain

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

One way to spot a fake website is to look at the domain name. In general, 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 seal usually indicates that the website is credible according to Consumer Reports. 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 item is on sale in other stores. A simple price comparison can help you determine if a transaction is indeed legitimate or just 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 avoid it entirely if you are going to shop for items 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 in the hope of getting you connected.

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 receive an email from a major shipping company like FedEx that says your package is delayed or there is a problem with your order, it could be a phishing scam. Typically, this type of email will ask you to click on a link for more information on a suspected issue. But clicking on the link can download malware that hackers use to get information from your computer.

Instead of clicking on a link, you should visit the shipper's website directly and use your tracking number or order confirmation.

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 usually have a "Contact Us" section, among other things, where the buyer can leave a complaint or ask questions about the service.

The section "About us" or "Contact us" can increase the transparency and reliability of the retailer. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a website, make sure the seller has an available line of communication with customers.

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 is better to pay with a credit card, which will help you quickly track fraudulent activities and avoid other mistakes when shopping online. It's a good idea to regularly check your account balances and credit card activity so that you can spot any unusual spending and unauthorized purchases. If this happens, report it immediately.

You visit fake coupon sites

Beware of clicking on coupons on social media. If the coupon came from the official page of the seller's social network, then there is no problem. Fake coupons appear on social media pages that claim to be associated with retailers.

For example, you stumbled upon a store deal that is not advertised on any of that store's official media platforms. Instead of assuming the transaction is an internal company secret, 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

When browsing the "Sale" section on the Internet, pay special attention to products that are marked as "final sale". This does not always mean the final prices. According to statistics, by 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, the shares do not last long, but it is likely that there will be another one soon. Instead of receiving information about all the 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

Well-reviewed products and services have a big impact on new customers and retailers are aware of this. A 2018 survey from ReviewTracker found that 63,6% of people check reviews on Google before visiting a business. Some online retailers pay for positive reviews.

To avoid being fooled by fake reviews, beware of those 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 posted around the same time, this could indicate that they were all paid for.

You buy more to get free shipping

Shopping online is good until you remember to pay for shipping. Retailers often lure you into offering free shipping after ordering for a certain amount. In this case, you risk spending more by adding products that you do not 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 official store apps or trusted apps like FatWallet and DealNews, Consumer Reports says.

You choose "designer" goods 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 the 47 products the organization purchased from third-party vendors 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 your shopping cart on any shopping site, make sure you know how much will be charged for shipping so that you can determine if it is actually worth ordering online. Fees can sometimes be avoided by choosing the “pick up at store” option or by finding free shipping 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's 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 have heard of and trust. Alternatively, you can check if a 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 a product that is significantly lower or higher than its cost on other sites, then this is a sure indicator that the product is a 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 the 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 items, retailer coupons 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 don't link to this resource.

Read also on ForumDaily:

24 Costco Shopping Secrets Only Employees Know About

Card or cash: what makes you spend more

What can you buy at a discount or get free in 2020

Tax Free: how to refund money from purchases made abroad

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