Online Shopping Scams: How They Work And How To Avoid Them

We are more dependent on online shopping than ever before. Online shopping had already become a major part of the worldwide economy, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. People appreciated the fact that they could order items ranging from clothes to furniture and even groceries without having to leave their homes or waste time running errands. For that matter, online shopping was often less expensive than shopping in person, as it was more difficult to be drawn to impulse purchases in an online setting. A 2012 report indicates that 70% of shoppers say that they chose online vendors because they offered better deals than brick and mortar stores. With that being said, the reliance online shopping has become real ever since the COVID-19 pandemic first gripped the world. Now that people are avoiding going out in public as much as possible, many are choosing to shop online. But online shopping hasn’t necessarily become easier or changed itself in response to the pandemic. There are also certain issues that remain despite, or perhaps because, of the fact that there are more people shopping online than there were previously. Therefore, it’s important to look into how to avoid online shopping scams. The more you know about online shopping scams, the easier it will be to avoid them.

A lot of online shopping scams are obvious to anyone who is familiar with the internet, which makes many people believe that they won’t fall prey to them. However, many are more complex and difficult to unravel, which means that by the time you realize that you’ve been scammed it may be too late to do anything about it. Therefore, it’s important to be aware and to recognize that sometimes, there is such a thing as a deal that is too good to be true. Below, we’ll look into how to avoid online shopping scams, from how to identify the scams in the first place, to what you should do if they do happen to you.

What Are Some Warning Signs That Identify Online Shopping Scams?

When looking into how to avoid online shopping scams, it’s important to start with informing yourself about how to identify them in the first place. While some online scams are certainly more well-crafted than others, there are some clear warning signs that you can look out for when trying to identify fake online storefronts. These are among the most common types of online scams. While you may be able to realize that an eBay ad is less than trustworthy, an online store gives the idea of legitimacy. As such, people tend to fall for these types of scams much more easily than they do others. One reason why this occurs is that fake online stores are often modeled after real online stores. For example, if you’re looking for an online jewelry store and type in a URL that is off by one letter, a scammer may have grabbed that URL and used it to create a fake copycat store. You would then proceed, completely unaware of the fact that you’re giving money to a scammer. Therefore, it’s a good idea to double-check and make sure that you have the URL right before inputting your payment information.

Another factor to consider when researching how to avoid online shopping scams is that of the padlock function you should see on the top left corner of your browser, right next to the search bar. You may not pay much attention to this padlock, but it can be quite useful if you’re double-checking a website. By clicking on this padlock, you should get a drop-down menu that includes important information, such as whether or not the website’s certificate is valid, the site’s settings, and the number of cookies in use. While this information doesn’t tell you outright if the website is invalid, the fact that the padlock is available lets you know that the website is secure. Normally, fake online storefronts will not have this level of security. Furthermore, if a legitimate website has that padlock, this means that it will be much harder to hack; scammers can hack legitimate websites and steal your payment information, which is an issue entirely separate from the fake storefronts. Some of the more sophisticated fake online storefronts, however, do replicate the appearance of the padlock, and even secure websites can potentially be hacked. But before you buy exceptionally cheap diamond studs from that aforementioned online jewelry store, you may want to rethink it.

That super inexpensive, too good to be true deal is another matter that we should return to. While the ecommerce world is certainly competitive and prices do periodically drop and climb, if you’re paying next to nothing for something that would normally cost three times as much, you should do some research and double-check the website that you’re buying from. Sometimes, the “truth” behind these amazing sales is apparent as soon as you move to pay. A recent trend is items being sold for less than a dollar, or perhaps being given away for free. But when the shopper makes their order, they’re charged an extremely high shipping rate. Before even getting to this point, however, you can evaluate the store you’re shopping on by checking out online reviews. However, this is only the beginning point. Reviews can be fabricated or bought. It’s a much better idea to simply use a website checker. Website checkers can be used to verify the safety of virtually any site, with the most trustworthy ones including the Google Transparency Report, which allows you to enter any URL and check the site’s status. Another trustworthy website checker is, which generates a report about the website after your inquiry, giving more details than the Google Transparency Report and ensuring that you know whether or not you’re shopping on a safe website. Relying on these types of checkers is an important step when learning how to avoid online shopping scams. Nonetheless, it’s also crucial to know what to look out for on your own, so that you can instinctively identify scams yourself. That way, you’ll not only save money but time as well.

One thing to consider as well as you looking into shopping online is how the website is maintained. If there are a lot of spelling or grammar errors, you probably aren’t looking at a professional website, and you may very well need to think back on what you learned about how to avoid online shopping scams. Typically, taking this kind of notice and doing your research before you begin shopping can really make a major difference. If you’re seeking to sell used electronics online, for example, you should ask around in person or on message boards to find real recommendations of reliable websites.

How Do Online Shopping Scams Work?

There are a number of different types of online scams, and in order to fully comprehend how to avoid online shopping scams in particular it’s a good idea to understand how scams work. Obviously, the fake storefront scam is perhaps the easiest to understand. When people enter their payment information on these sites, that information will be taken by the scammers and used to charge purchases. While in some cases chargebacks are possible and can recover the money, and some banks will be able to recover the funds through their fraud departments, these charges can at times be permanent. In some cases, scammers can commit outright identity fraud, depending on the amount of information that is stored on shopping sites.

This is why it’s incredibly important for shoppers to withhold as much information as possible, even on seemingly secure and legitimate websites. If a website requires you to put your social security number down to make a purchase, you should rethink doing so; even if this information is needed for a specific type of purchase, it probably isn’t worth the risk. For example, while you may need to have your credit checked when looking to buy a used motorcycle for sale online, it might be a better idea to simply visit an auto dealership in person.

When it comes to other purchases, you may want to think about using a secure processing agent. The most popular of these is Paypal, which was adopted by many to better protect their data privacy when shopping online. These agents essentially draw from the balance that you transfer or keep there, and through encryption keep your payment information secure. Why is this preferable to a typical payment process? There are several reasons.

While a typical credit card processing portal requires you to put your card information directly into the portal itself, these secure systems mean that your card is not required in the first place. This is why, as you search out the best tips on how to avoid online shopping scams, one of the best means is to use a third party as means of secure payment. Yet what happens if you’re cautious, you research your websites, and you use a secure payment system and you still fall prey to a scam?

What Happens After An Online Scam?

The first thing to do if you fall prey to an online shopping scam is call your bank or credit card company. They should all have fraud departments. If your credit card was hacked and the charge made was on credit, this can probably be reversed somewhat easily. If the charge was made through a debit card or was drawn from your bank account, the process can be somewhat more complicated. However, the bank or credit card company’s fraud departments should be able to trace the source of the scam. If a card was used in the process, it should be canceled immediately. You may also be able to freeze your bank account and any checks you own. This should be done before you seek legal counsel or file a complaint with the marketplace you used, which would be the second step.

Provided you used a reputable marketplace like Amazon, you should file a complaint with them. This will hopefully shut down the scammer and keep them from continuing in the future. They may also be able to retrieve your stolen funds. If the marketplace refuses to take any action on your part, you may want to get in touch with lawyers that specialize in these types of cases. Even bringing legal representation into the picture can give the marketplace an idea of how serious you are, and may push them to act sooner than they would otherwise.

Once you’ve gone through these steps, you should consider filing a police report. Fraud, online or otherwise, is a serious crime. Even if you read up on how to avoid online shopping scams, you may very well still become a victim of it and the best way to fight fraud is to pursue justice. This will also aid in the pursuit of your money, as any good law firms that specialize in fraud cases will advise. If the police catch the culprits, getting your money back will be much more assured.

Online shopping might be a bit less convenient if you’re constantly thinking about what could happen should you fall prey to a scam. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the last thing that anyone would want is for you to lose money because you weren’t aware of how to avoid online shopping scams. The process really just requires a few extra steps when checking out, some extra vigilance and awareness of what you’re doing. You might have to pass up a seemingly good deal or two. But in the long term, it’s definitely a better idea to ignore a deal that might be too good to be true, versus losing money that you might not be able to get back.

By practicing these suggestions and acting quickly if the worst should happen, however, you should be well prepared to continue your online shopping safely!

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