In addition to entertainment, the internet has also made shopping much convenient. The pandemic caused sellers to move their inventory into the digital space and forced all of us to do our shopping online. The convenience of buying with just a tap of a button has led to many people choosing to use the internet over brick and mortar. With online transactions increasing at a rapid rate, scammers are also profiting from their new gimmicks to steal money from me and you.
Although you might be aware of being scammed, you might not be knowing exactly how you could get trapped. It’s not likely that you might not want to benefit from using the internet to make purchases just because of cybercriminals. Therefore, you must educate yourself on how you could be scammed and ways to dodge these scams, and continue shopping online.
There are several ways you could get scammed online. Virtual thieves try to steal your money by using different tactics such as collecting your payment information when you purchase using your bank card, asking you to provide confidential information through phishing emails, or selling items that don’t match the specifications.
How to identify and avoid scams when shopping online?
1. Buy from reputed websites
A website is a store you are going to make your purchase from, and you wouldn’t buy something from a shop that cheats its customers. Therefore, you must make sure the seller is genuine in order to avoid getting scammed. Check to see if the website looks authentic by going through the about us and contact details. Authentic store owners would be transparent with their details, and you could double-check by doing your research on Google. You should also observe closely at the looks of the website and check to see if there are spelling and grammar errors or if it is a cloned website. Genuine websites are professionally made and would hardly contain basic errors.
Another concern you must have is to check if the website is safe from attackers. Even though the website is genuine, you should see if it can hold your information safely. This can be verified by reading its terms & conditions and see if the website has a security certificate, the green padlock on the URL area. Make sure this is also present during checkout. This means that the communication with your device is encrypted, but there is no 100% assurance that it’s safe.
You could further check for the website’s authenticity by looking up the domain information using an online tool. These tools allow you to see the age of the website and you could use the information to cross-check with the details given on the site. Therefore, take the time to go through the website before proceeding with shopping.
2. Avoid using public networks when shopping online
Public networks are helpful when you’re out, but it’s a great entry point for hackers as well. Hackers could easily access the devices that aren’t secured on the same network and perform their show. They collect all the information you send, such as emails, bank details, and any other details, who then use them to get access to your accounts. The attacker could also plant malicious software and take control of your device. Therefore, you could use a VPN or it’s better if you could avoid using public networks to make online purchases and any other work that involves confidential information.
3. Check the feedbacks from previous buyers
Scammers could appear in trusted marketplaces too. Although sites like eBay try their best to keep scammers away, the smart fraudsters manage to find loopholes. They could cheat you by sending defective items that don’t match the description. However, you could easily avoid them if you do your homework.
See if the seller is genuine by reading the feedbacks and ratings left by others, and see how long they’ve been on the platform as a seller. Doing this will allow you to identify a scammer right away. Another way to identify a scammer is to contact them and ask for real pictures of the item you are going to buy with today’s date written on paper. If they come up with lame excuses, it means they’ve uploaded random photos from the internet, and you better avoid them.
4. Avoid offers that sound too good to be true
A common e-commerce scam is the low-priced trick that attracts many buyers to the website. Nobody wants to lose money by doing business, so do fraudsters. They get your financial details by sending you a low-quality counterfeit, and they use your details to make the big bucks. This doesn’t mean you should pass on coupons and discounts. You could make use of coupons from bigger, reputed websites, but avoid redeeming discounts from doubtful websites that you’ve come across for the first time. Most of the time scammers advertise luxury goods like watches and designer clothes for a great bargain in order to attract potential online shopping scam victims.
5. Use a credits card instead of debit card
Many people believe using a debit card for online purchases is the best thing to do. However, you’d be surprised if I ask you to use your credit card for shopping online. Using your credit card is better because it’s less of a hassle to get a refund of the stolen amount as the money in your account remains untouched. Therefore, the credit card provider will reverse the payment after investigations. This facility is available for debit cards as well, but it will take more time to resolve the issue because the money has already left your account.
Moreover, using a credit card is better to handle disputes that arise from faulty or damaged items as well. You could file a dispute and your credit card provider will handle the refund process for you, and reverse the payment. Apart from security, you will also be awarded credit card points for every purchase you make, which can later be redeemed. Therefore, using your credit card is better than using a debit card. You should also remember to track your bank account for a couple of days after the purchase so that you could immediately report any payment you didn’t make.
6. Ask for tracking
Tracking numbers allow you to track your item once it has been shipped. Therefore, the seller cannot lie to you saying they already shipped the product. You’ll be provided with a tracking ID if you purchase through sites like eBay, but you might have to request it from smaller individual websites. A seller who provides tracking ID without you having to ask is eligible to earn a few trustworthy points.
However, you must also be mindful if you receive a message asking you to input your login details because it could be a scam message in order to collect your personal information. Tracking doesn’t require you to log into your account. You could simply visit the shipping company’s website and paste the tracking ID on the search tool to get an update.
7. Use two factor authorization
Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of protection in addition to your account password. Using this will minimize the risk of unauthorized access as you need to provide an extra pin that will be sent to you via text message or email. Therefore, hackers trying to gain access to accounts will need to work harder if they need to bypass two-factor authentication. This is why hackers try to take control of your device by using phishing techniques and convince you to send them the code you received.
8. Don’t respond to emails that ask for personal details
Phishing attacks are targeted through emails or SMS, and the most common method to get you hooked. Fraudsters find your details from your online activities and send you messages pretending to be a representative of a company. They ask you to provide your personal credentials such as your social security number, account numbers, or passwords. They say they need your personal details to protect your account from suspicious activity or credit your account with a cash prize or a refund, double-check your details, or any other way to convince you to provide them your details.
There are several ways you could identify these types of emails. One such method is to look closely to see if it has any spelling or grammatical errors, and the email would usually create a sense of urgency to make you panic. There is no way that large companies would make such silly mistakes because they have a separate team that is well trained to write professionally.
Another way to spot a phishing email is to check if the email is sent from a public domain such as @gmail.com. Reputed companies don’t use public email domains because they have their own email domain which ends with the company’s name, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Therefore, you shouldn’t panic when you get these sorts of messages. Take your time to check if the sender is actually a representative from the company, and simply mark the message as spam if you feel suspicious.
9. Don’t do bank transfers
An easy way to identify scammers on larger marketplaces is if they ask you to make the payment directly to their bank account. This is a red alert that the seller is trying to do something fishy. Therefore, you should never make payment directly to the seller’s bank account when you could pay using the online portal on the website. Reversing a payment made using your card is easier than a bank transfer refund because of money return guarantee policies.
10. Report immedeately
If by chance you have been trapped by a scammer, you should report it immediately to your bank or the marketplace. Bigger websites will be more than happy to assist you because they too try their best to eliminate scammers from the platform. However, if it was a smaller, unpopular website, you must report it to the bank so that your payment will be reversed.
Online shopping is a great way to conveniently purchase items, as you don’t have to physically visit the store and it allows you to access a wider range of items simply with a tap of a button. However, there are bad players in the market, looking to make money unethically, which is a huge concern to online shoppers. However, you don’t need to pass on the perks of online shopping just because of fraud. As shoppers, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself and take measures to safely shop online.