If you shop online for gifts or other items, you are the target of online scammers who rake in $-billions every year by ripping off people who think they are safe. That’s particularly true on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated. Some of the emails or texts they send to you look real. It pays to be careful and do a few things that can prevent you from being a victim.
The New York Department of Consumer Protection offers these tips to guard against scammers:
- Beware of fake websites: Unfortunately, fraudsters often imitate legitimate brands by creating fake shopping websites.Before you click, take the time to carefully read and review what you’re buying and from whom you’re buying it. There are a few ways to tell if it’s an imposter website. Here are a few to know:
- Domain name: If the domain name doesn’t match the official company name or website, it could be a scam site.
- Grammatical errors: Legitimate organizations spend resources to make sure their sites are error-free. If you notice obvious spelling mistakes or errors, that is a red flag.
- Be careful when shopping on social media:Scammers are using real store names and logos to advertise fake clearance sales on social media feeds. Pay attention to brand imposters and fake retailers with fake consumer reviews. The best way to detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. Don’t purchase a product directly from the social media site; open a new browser and make your purchase through the retailer’s website. Avoid placing orders on these copycat sites for products that will never arrive.
- Beware of third-party seller scams:Use caution on trusted sites that host items from third-party sellers. If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site, read the seller’s policies, review ratings, read consumer comments, and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third-party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.
- Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers.
- Learn how to spot a fake review:Watch out for fake reviews online. One red flag to look for is one-sided reviews with no specific details. Real reviews often reflect customer experiences that are balanced, descriptive and subjective. Also look for multiple reviews that look very similar and posted during the same timeframe. This is a sign that the reviewers are either copying information or were all written by the same person.
- Read product specifications. Online marketing is geared to get you to buy, so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want.
- Beware of nonexistent return policies.If you notice that the return or refund policy of an online retailer is vague, missing or exceedingly limited, shop elsewhere. If you can’t return the item you’re buying for a full refund if you’re not satisfied, consider skipping it.
Tips for Using Credit Cards Online:
- Check the website’s encryption; It’s easier than you think. Before entering your credit card information, make sure that the website’s address begins with “https” and that there is a closed lock on the website address bar or unbroken key symbol in the lower portion of your window.
- Don’t keep the credit card on file for future purchases. Provide your credit card number each time you make a purchase.
- Designate one credit card and one email address for online shopping. This will allow for easy review of purchases and provide protection in case of a dispute.
Other good tips:
- One of the bigger scams right now comes from emails that say there is a problem with your Amazon order. Never click on links inside these emails. Go to Amazon.com or use your phone app to check your “orders”. You can do any corrections needed on the website.
- Beware of some overseas websites that offer prices that seem too good to be true. The quality of the goods can be extremely bad, and shipping times can sometimes mean weeks.
- If there are grammar or spelling errors in the “offer” you get in your email, delete it. Legitimate companies pay people to make sure their offers are done well.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection offers a helpline, at 800-697-1220.