With Christmas just around the corner, and the country still in lockdown, online shopping is reaching fever pitch. At the end of the week, it’s officially Black Friday (even though many retailers have already released early deals) where we will be tempted from all angles with the best deals, and we’ll be wanting to scoop up all of the bargains. Now is the time of year that the scammers will be out in force, so here are a few tips to stay safe online.
As a number one, always remember that if a deal just looks too good to be true, it probably is and you will be just a few clicks away from losing your money. Websites these days can be thrown together by scammers very quickly using “shop in a box” platforms such as Shopify, and then they can be advertised easily through Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram, and start attracting customers. Typically scammers will go after the season’s “must-have” gadgets and toys, so be even more wary if you are on the lookout for that hard to source present that is sold out everywhere else, or if the product is so much cheaper than everywhere else.
I would expect many of us can say that we have been enticed into buying something that has stumbled into our timeline while scrolling through Facebook. I for one have, and fell for a website last year that looked to be selling really lovely jumpers for a decent price, but what turned up much later than expected was a terrible, sub-standard imitation of the picture used on the website. There was no hope in returning the items, as by then the website had shut down, but there are a few things that you should check before you buy online and to protect yourself.
One way to protect yourself is to pay by credit card as you can clawback the money if you can’t get a refund from the website, or similarly use Paypal as you can then make a fraudulent claim. You may not always be able to get your money back, but it’s safer than using a debit card where you have no way to claim.
The best thing to do before committing to the purchase is to do a few simple checks that just take a couple of minutes to verify that the company that you are buying from can be trusted.
If the site doesn’t have verifiable contact details, then move on.
If you have come to the website via a social media advert, then check the profile on Facebook and Instagram of the company:
You would expect that a website that is serious about selling online will have good social profiles set up, with regular product features and updates, and a community they interact with. If you don’t feel you can trust their social profiles, then move on.
Another place to check is on platforms such as Trustpilot. Go and check out the reviews of the company:
Of course it can take a bit of time and effort for a newly set up, bona fide business to gain reviews so you need to be aware of this, as not all companies will have online reviews, but what this check can help you with is if other people have recently been scammed, they are likely to add a bad review which is what you are really looking out for. If there are bad reviews, no matter how tempting the bargain, then move on.
So in general be aware of that deal. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful who you are buying from, do your due diligence and carry out the simple checks. There are so many good online retailers that offer a great service who we can trust, but we have to be aware that there will always be people who can easily scam us if we are not careful about who we trust.
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