Online shopping is already on the rise this holiday season. While last year’s large increase in Christmas e-commerce due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not be repeated this time, November and December online purchases are projected to exceed $ 200 billion for the first time. And as online shopping increases, so do online scams.
Already, various companies outside of the US advertise relatively uncontrollably on the Internet, selling, or even simply pretending to sell, all kinds of products. Items are typically advertised with designs stolen from legitimate companies and artists, often borrowed from Etsy, especially if those designs have been featured on popular sites like Bored Panda.
When people buy these fraudulent products, what arrives is usually of low quality. That is if anything ever comes along. Often times, the business just goes out of business and changes its name without submitting anything. In the worst case, they also steal customers’ credit card information.
So how do you shop smart and spot scams? Here are some clues to keep in mind.
1. Is it too good to be true?
Does the product shown in the picture match the price? Know the market. An amazing product for a low price is cause for suspicion. For example, Instagram featured photos from a “Halloween Advent Calendar.” The ad was priced at $ 59.99, but was available for a limited time at $ 29.80. At first glance, you might think you’re getting a great deal, but take a moment to think it over carefully. That price would barely cover the cost of shipping and handling a product of that size. The original product, sold on Etsy, it retails for over $ 1,800 and the creator has a backlog of orders.
2. When in doubt: Google it
You may not be familiar enough with Etsy’s workmanship to recognize a possible scam. When in doubt, search for the product name or download the image and run an image search on Google. You will likely find the original source. If the product really exists, unlike this CG baby shark that one company used as an advertisement for its supposed baby shark robot toy – you can choose to pay the original artist for their hard work or take the risk and try to get the knockoff. The search will also reveal if there are multiple purported companies selling the same “one-of-a-kind” and “exclusive” items using the exact same images. Once you start to see twice as much or more, it is a warning sign.
3. Check the business reputation
Searching for the company name will likely only take you to the company site. Instead, search for the business name with the word “scam.” You will be able to tell fairly quickly if there is a troubling history associated with the business. You can also try Scamvoid, which is dedicated to identifying the trustworthiness of online links. There may be a Better Business Bureau listing for the company, but be careful about trusting them. You can also find Facebook groups, like this one to fashion related scams, which track untrusted sites.
4. Too new to trust
In some cases, the business is so new that you won’t be able to find a history. This is a red flag. They are likely one of those companies that closes once they have received enough orders, then they set up a new name and a new domain and do it again. There is a possibility that these are legitimate startups trying to open a store during a pandemic. To differentiate between a legitimate new business and an impromptu operation, use some of the following steps to judge them.
5. Check the reviews
Take a close look at the reviews. If there are none, back off. If there are, check the following warning signs. The reviews are few and unanimously five stars with no comments. If there are comments, they are loaded with broken English or vague praise that could have been copied and pasted from any product. None of the reviews include images of the actual product received. There are no negative reviews, which is a red flag because even the best legitimate companies can’t please everyone all the time. As a side note, if you are looking for a legitimate product offering, be careful not to read the negative reviews too much.
6. Is it a “good” site?
Does the company have a website and not just a Facebook page? If not, it’s a big no. If so, is it a complete website or does it barely exist? Verify that the business has a working phone number, and when you look up the number, it doesn’t have 12 other “businesses” associated with it. Verify that it includes a postal address, preferably one that is not just a PO box.
See the “about us” page of the site. Don’t have one? That is another no. Does the “about us” include the year the company started? Does it include information about the creators of the products? If the page has a photo claiming to be the owner or the artist, you can do a Google image search to see if it is a photo copied from another web page, a stock photo, or a fake created by an artificial intelligence system. Are their claims about themselves held under scrutiny? For example, does the site claim to be a Black American owned business but its WHOIS domain information list a company in China?
7. Presence in social networks: Do you have any?
Similarly, do they have a social media presence outside of the ad that appears in your newsfeed? If not, stay away. If so, you can click on the name of the poster to see where the person or business is located and when the page was started. You can also see how far back your posts are, as well as check the quality of those posts and chat about the company.
8. Beware of the “bankruptcy” story
During the pandemic, legitimate businesses are, in fact, closing. Illegitimate companies have clung to this as a tool to tug at people’s heartstrings and mislead buyers. This illegal for US companies to do thisBut companies outside of the US are not subject to the same laws. One way to distinguish legitimate companies from scams is to check the start date on website domain registrations and social networking sites. If the business emerged during the pandemic just in time to fail, steer clear.
9. Clickbait for fashion ads
Beware of fashion items. Imitations and scams abound in any fashion or trendy item. Today, marketers are also picking up on political trends. Companies with names like “WeLuvTrump”, “FemPower” and “BlackGoodness” emerge. The same is often the case with political news. For example, RBG articles were all the rage in the wake of the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020. Again, following the steps above will help you determine which products are legitimate.
10. Social influence tricks
Also be wary of common marketing techniques originally discovered by the social psychologist. Robert Cialdini They are used by legitimate and illegitimate companies alike. The most common thing you are likely to see on scam sites are exclusive access claims, which appeal to your need for uniqueness, limited supply claims, or time-out on a “sale”, which play on the psychological value People place in scarce items and statements like “Karen S. from Indianola just bought this item,” which are “social proof” that a behavior is safe or appropriate because others have done it.
Ultimately, if these 10 tips seem like too much to follow just to get that one-of-a-kind toy for your grandchild, buy instead from a trusted source you’ve relied on in the past. It is also a good idea to use credit cards or payment services like PayPal that protect consumers from fraudulent charges.
Buy wisely. Your bank account counts on you.
H. Colleen Sinclair, Associate Professor of Social Psychology, Mississippi State University