How to spot and report a fake online shopping website
How to spot a fake online shopping website. By Rawpixel.com | www.shutterstock.com
There was a time when the only way to shop was to go to a store and buy at the counter. What would have been the biggest worry then? In terms of crime, you might think of being mugged on the street or leaving your bag in the back of a grindstone, but you never worry about an entire store, that’s wrong. However, being a modern day shopper keeps you on your toes. Currently, the rate at which people are shopping online these days has reached new heights thanks to Covid and the lockdown. And of course we use the usual sites like Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra etc. However, a ton of new websites have also popped up to tackle this current demand. These websites come with great discounts and brilliant landing pages to entice you.
The truth is, a lot of these websites can be fake and the item you bought with that big discount might never get to your doorstep. The worst part is, you might never get your money back. Many buyers lost thousands of rupees because of these bogus websites. Since most of us prepay our orders, we trust these companies to live up to their end of the bargain. Sometimes after placing the order the customer service numbers stop working, emails tend to bounce, and sometimes the website itself will go missing. While there are ways to report these cases, the chances of getting your money back are slim to near zero. So it is important for you to protect yourself and be careful while shopping online.
Here are some tips that will help you spot fake online shopping sites:
1) Check the domain name.
The first thing to do is to verify the name of the website, commonly known as the URL. A trust mark will have a domain name based on its name, for example Zara.com or HM.com. But if you spot any random numbers, typos, or weird alphabets in the URL, it’s usually a red flag. Lots of fake websites might worship well-known brands as well, but won’t really be the official website.
Keep an eye out for websites that have terms like sales and offers in their URL as these clickbaity options are 1000% wrong. If you are still not sure if you can perform a website scammer search using Google Safe Browsing tool to verify its legitimacy. Be sure to approach domains that end in .net or .org with caution, as these are rarely used for online purchases.
2) Look for the small lock at the top left of the website URL.
A lock next to the website URL means the website is encrypted, so anything you do on it – like browse or make payments – can’t be intercepted. Most trustworthy websites have this feature, so if you notice a website without this feature, it could be a red flag. But these days scammers are even able to forge or buy these locks, so seeing one doesn’t necessarily mean the website is safe. So be sure to do all the additional checks mentioned below.
3) Poor website design.
A good business understands the importance of making a good impression on potential customers. Thatâs why they always have a professionally designed website that keeps your information safe. Scam websites obviously won’t invest the time it takes to build a foolproof website as it requires resources and funds. Look for pixelated images, misspellings, grammatical errors, and broken links.
4) Research the site and search for them on social media.
If you come across a website that you like and have never used before, it wouldn’t hurt to take a few minutes to search the website. Google company and look for reviews and any sign of their social media handles. Check this with user reviews. In addition, you can also consult the sites About Us page. Any problems you notice with sentence formation and misspellings mean danger ahead. You should also check if the website has contact information.
Legitimate businesses want to hear from their customers and will always list ways to get in touch with them. But if the website lacks Contact us page it could be wrong. You should also be wary of websites that only offer the contact form to fill out. Scam websites just want to take your money and run. That’s why you won’t find much in terms of contact information. And even if you do manage to get your hands on a phone number and email address, it might not get anywhere.
6) Don’t fall for these great prices.
If you spot ridiculously low prices that sound too good to be true, they probably are. Fake websites will use the discounted rates to attract bargain-hungry shoppers. If your gut tells you something smells like fish, you are probably right. It is the easiest way to attract victims. They’ll even have a range of big-ticket items at discounted rates, making them even more appealing to laymen. In such cases, it would help you verify prices with other online retailers as there is no real way to know if this is a scam website.
They might even say they have products in stock that are sold out almost everywhere else. Also, it’s important to note that official websites will advertise sales but never send you a message claiming specific offers or products.
7) Customer reviews
Customer reviews are a treasure trove of information, especially if you’re looking to dig up a brand’s dirt. And if a bogus website pops up, the reviews will include a warning to potential customers. This should be a wake-up call for you if you see similar reviews on the website. If you only see new reviews, you know something is going on. You may also notice reviews with no personal opinion and they could just as easily be fake. Just be sure to go through as many reviews as possible to be sure.
8) Pay attention to which targeted ads you click.
Look at the sites that grab your attention with social media ads, as this is a common way to get customers. Targeted ads appear in your feed because you searched for particular articles online. Scammers intercept and can buy ads to display their site on your timeline and lure you into making a purchase.
9) Never pay by bank transfer.
If you ever find a website that asks you to pay by direct bank transfer, you better run for the hills. If you buy something that is fake or never shows up on your doorstep with a credit or debit card, you have the right to get your money back. But if you pay by wire transfer, there is little to no chance of your money getting back.
The last tip:
Overall, stick with shopping from well-known websites or websites that you know someone has bought from. It is also important to understand the condition in which they received the product. Were they happy with the packaging and quality etc.? But if the website looks legitimate and you really want to buy something from there, place a small order for a trial.
Usually Cash on delivery is a great way to save yourself from this type of fraud. However, you can report it to cybercrime.gov.in and file a complaint, in case you still manage to get scammed. You can also report it to cyber cells and even file a complaint at the nearest police station. Because even though we think those amounts are low, a ton of people get ripped off the same way you are and it adds up. Flag and expose these sites to prevent others from falling prey to them.
What are some of the steps you take to build an ethical closet? Let me know in the comments below.
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