How to Identify Fraudulent Websites -- Practical Guide for Safe Online Shopping
How to Identify Fraudulent Websites -- Practical Guide for Safe Online Shopping
Nowadays, online shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers...
Just finding what you need on Internet with best prices and then after a few clicks and a short wait, you will have your packages delivered right to your doorstep without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home.
What’s more, especially in the age of COVID-19 in 2020, it's much safer than going out even if you're fully masked and gloved.
Fake Companies Can Turn Your Joy of Buying Into A Hassle
An increasing number of victims are being directed to fraudulent websites via social media platforms and popular online search engines.
According to complaints received by the FBI, an increasing number of victims have not received items they purchased from websites offering low prices on items such as gym equipment, small appliances, tools and furniture.
Victims reported they were led to these websites via ads on social media platforms (such as Facebook or Instagram Ads) or while searching for specific items on online search engines’ “shopping” pages (such as Google Shopping Ads or Bing Shopping Ads).
Those fake companies and identity thieves can turn your joy of buying into a hassle.
What to do? Shall we give up online shopping accordingly? Of course not. Stay calm first. While somewhat alarming, these stats should not keep you from shopping online.
You simply need to use some common sense and follow practical advice to protect your money when doing online shopping.
How to Shop Safely Online -- Do Your Homework on The Retailer Before Buying
#1, Is the Website Secure for Shopping -- Look for The Lock
Never buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed - at the very least. Check if the site uses secure encryption (HTTPS).
Before entering any personal or credit card info onto a shopping site look to see if the web address on the page begins with “https:”, but not “http:”.
An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically to the left of the URL in the address bar or the status bar down below; it depends on your browser.
For example, if you open our online store website Luckybudmall.com, you can see the locked padlock icon and the “https:”
#2, Know The Merchant & Their Reputation Before Buying
If you already know the store, shopping their online store is very safe. If you don’t know the store, please break out your detective skills when you want to buy something from a new merchant.
First, you can check the Whois Public Internet Directory for the retailer’s domain registration information.
What’s more, does the company interact with a social media following? What do its customer reviews say?
If there’s no email address, phone number or address for a store, that could be a red flag that it’s a fake company.
For example, our online store name is “Luckybudmall”, when you search it on Google, you will find that we also use this same name in any other social media platforms, so beside the email address we listed in the Contact Us page, you can also interact with us on SNS platform such as our Facebook Page, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and our Youtube Channel.
#3 Avoid Website Used Content Copied & Shared the Same Contact Information
Do you know there are content thefts exist all over the web? Content thefts are usually copying and pasting content (written text, images, video, etc) from one website to another without permission or proper sourcing.
What’s more, websites used content copied from legitimate sites and often shared the same contact information.
This online shop just copy all the content from our store Luckybudmall, even the picture with our logo “Luckybud”, and even left our contact email “[email protected]” at the bottom of the product content.
If this fake online shop promoted this product on Facebook ads, and if you placed order from this site, we are not sure whether you will receive the product, if not, of course you will send email to “[email protected]” to ask “where is my order or package?”
However, we will not be responsible for such orders placed from other shops. So before place order, please make sure the content in the product listing matching the website domains or logos.
# 4 Identify Ads Scam & Avoid Merchandise at Significantly Discounted Prices
Do you know that Facebook ad scam tricks uses with images and video of Kickstarter products, but offered merchandise at significantly discounted prices?
Scammers find an interesting or popular product from crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, rip the item’s details, photos, and videos, and push them via Facebook ads as their own products.
Victims of the fraud are either never sent the product or receive a knockoff version.
However, scammers sometimes sell weirder items with amazing “WOW” videos promoted on Facebook Ads, and the ads always with lots of shares and likes.
Recently we found that a Shark Toy promoted well on Facebook ads, if you placed order from this site, we are not sure what other product you will receive, maybe a plush shark, or maybe a piece of drawing of shark, whoever knows.
Then we searched this shark toy on Youtube channel, found the below result:
This is just a piece of 3D Max creation from a Youtube Channle Fabricio Rabachim.
And this author already made warm attention in the first piece of comment as below:
"This shark is not for sale, it is not a toy, any website that announces images or links of my videos for sale of the character, is making false advertisements, denounce the sites that advertise the sale of this shark. Thank you for attention."
The same Facebook ads scam about a 3D spider toy after this 3D shark toy, which is also another piece of 3D creation from the same author:
Any e-store that promises too much at too low a price is suspicious, you will never receive the same item promoted in Facebook ads with such an unreasonable price.
If the ads is too shiny, while the price is too low, you should consider whether the merchant came by the items legally, if you will ever receive the items you paid for, whether the items are actually the brand shown or a cheap substitute.
#5 Better Use a Credit Card or PayPal than A Debit Card
With more transactions being made online every year, and more shopping online due to Covid-19 in this special year, you may be wondering: what’s the best way to pay?
Credit cards and PayPal are certainly some of the most popular options for payment when online shopping.
Credit cards are generally a more secure alternative to using a debit card because you can easily lock or cancel your card if your details are stolen.
If someone racks up unauthorized charges on your credit card, federal regulations say you won’t have to pay while the card company investigates. Most major credit cards offer $0 liability for fraudulent purchases.
Credit card purchases limit your liability to no more than $50 of unauthorized charges if your financial information is stolen, and the money in your bank account is untouched.
Most debit cards do not offer this protection – and even when they do, you’re the one out of funds in the meantime.
Paypal is convenient, all your payment information is stored on your account, so you don’t have to enter card details every time you pay.
Though you don’t have a Paypal account, you can also use Paypal Guest Checkout page to pay with your credit cards.
Paypal is more safer, if your eligible Paypal purchase doesn’t arrive or is significantly different to the seller’s description, you have Buyer Protection.
Each time when we get complaint from buyers who placed order in a fake company, we just explain to them that if you use Paypal to pay the order, use your buyer protection and open dispute immediately to get your money back.
Another warm suggestion is that consider designating one credit card that is only for online shopping and transactions.
This way, if the card gets compromised, you can quickly shut it down without impacting any other type of transactions.
#6 Check Order & Shipping Statements Regularly from Emails
If you place order from trusted sellers, you should receive order confirmation emails as soon as you place the order (as below example).
And you should receive parcel shipping confirmation emails as soon as the order is shipped, together with the tracking number of the parcel (as below example).
After you make the purchase, you’d better keep these items in a safe place: the receipt, order confirmation number and postal tracking number.
If you have a problem with the order, this information will help the merchant resolve the problem.
Of course, you can also enter the postal tracking number by yourself to know the status of your parcel from a tracking website.
If you didn’t receive above emails as example, please also check you email spam folder, if still no, you should be careful about your order and the money you have paid, and you should use your Buyer Protection System immediately.
#7 Take Action If You Don’t Get Your Stuff
If you already placed order from Fraudulent Websites, you should take action at once, no matter you don’t get your stuff or you get the other stuff that not the same as showed in the ads.
Call the merchant and provide the details noted in Tip 6. If the merchant turns out to be fake, or they’re just plain unhelpful, then your credit card provider or PayPal Buyer Protection can help you sort out the problem. Often, they can remove the charge from your statement.
Here are some recommendation from FBI:
- Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.govor your local FBI field office, which can be located at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices.
- Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions.
- Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
Trusted Sellers’ Reputation Are Also Ruined by Fraudulent Websites
If you search on Google, you will find lots of articles with many practical tips teaching you how to do safe shopping online.
While here in this guide, we almost just showed you how to identify fraudulent website on internet and protect your money from online shopping at a trusted seller’s side. Why?
As a seller, we usually received comments on our Facebook posts or received emails from other online buyers, they all showed angry and said that they never received the products they bought.
At the first time of receiving such complaint, we will use these buyers’ name and emails address to check our order history to find whether these buyers are really placed orders from our online store, but we usually never found any information about these orders. Why?
Because these buyers just placed orders from those fraudulent websites who never shipped the parcel, so the buyers just made complaint on those Facebook ads posts that promoted the same products by other trusted online stores (as you know, not only one store made ads for the same products).
Sometimes, we as trusted sellers are also victims, we do trusted business and provide quality products and service to our customers, but we have to explain again and again in the Facebook post comment or reply to those buyers’ emails to tell them how to identify the fake companies or fraudulent websites, and how to get their money back ASAP with their Buyer Protection System.
Regarding the increased numbers of complaints and confuse from online buyers, here we have to collect those above basic guidelines, also the ultimate guides and tips for safe online shopping at a trusted seller’s point, hope you can use them and shop with confidence online again.
And we also hope this article can protect the reputation of our trusted online sellers, because not all the online sellers who promoted on Facebook or Google Ads are fake companies or fraudulent websites.