How to Avoid Fake Sellers Online and What to Do if You Think You’ve Been Scammed
E-commerce channels now provide a more popular way to shop than ever before. However, there is an unfortunate downside to online shopping: it’s much easier to get scammed by internet sellers than it would be shopping in-store.
As this article by Michigan State University points out: “Almost anything that can be shipped can be counterfeited and sold online…It is difficult for the general public to know if a site is real or is selling counterfeit goods.”
That said, it doesn’t mean that the internet is not a great place to search for products, and there’s no reason that your online shopping experience shouldn’t be a positive one – as long as you know what to look out for.
Read on for tips on how to avoid fake sellers and stay safe while shopping online, and what steps to take if you suspect you have been a victim of a scam.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
Sometimes the rush of finding an internet bargain can lead us to make impulsive decisions.
Discovering your desired product online for half the price, for example, can be enough to have you heading for the virtual checkout without thinking twice.
But before you part with your credit card details, take a moment to consider your purchase.
While it is possible to find cheaper products online than you would in physical stores, if the price is significantly lower than usual, then you should probably be suspicious.
Do you research and find your product on several online sites before you commit to a purchase – this will provide you with an idea of its approximate market value.
As a rule of thumb, any website you find that slashes this RRP too drastically should probably be avoided.
When it comes to internet shopping, the old saying holds: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Check what other buyers are saying
Unless you’ve had an online seller personally recommended to you, make sure you invest some time checking if previous customers were satisfied with their experience.
If buying from a marketplace such as Amazon or Ebay, the buyer reviews on the product pages are a good place to start, and can usually be trusted to provide reliable feedback.
When purchasing products from a private website, it’s advisable to read through any customer reviews you can find on the site before you buy (and there should definitely be some – red flag if not!).
However, don’t rely on these as your only source of verification. After all, a scam seller will have no moral issue with fabricating some glowing reviews as a way of securing your order.
To make double sure, type the company’s name into Trustpilot and have a look at what comes up. Bad customer reviews will appear here, whether the seller likes it or not.
Social media is also a good place to do some digging. Most eCommerce companies will use these platforms to endorse their products – if they’re trustworthy they should post regularly and engage with followers. You can also check out who’s following them and ask them to vouch for the company in question.
You’re also well within your rights to reach out to sellers and ask them to provide you with contact details of satisfied customers who would be happy to provide positive feedback.
If they’re reluctant to do this, then there might be a reason – so approach with caution.
Check contact details
Legitimate online sellers will have their contact information displayed clearly on their website, as they are aware that buyers may want to get in touch.
Trustworthy sellers should also have a range of contact details available, such as phone number, email address and postal address – along with any social media tags.
Pay close attention to the contact details and consider a quick Google to check all info matches up. For example, be wary of companies that claim to be based in one location but have a phone number for a different town, city or even country.
Finally, and just to be double sure, why not try and get in touch before you buy? Phone numbers that ring out continuously with no one ever answering, or emails that fail to elicit a response, can be a major hint that this is not a reputable business and should be avoided.
Pay attention to the website
Unfortunately, due to advancements in technology and the availability of free website building and hosting services, it’s now easier than ever before to put together a professional-looking website – meaning that scam sites are not always immediately obvious.
However, if you know what you’re looking for, there are some warning signs that can help you identify the websites of untrustworthy sellers.
Badly written or sparse copy, spelling mistakes and low-quality images are all things to look out for – along with “flimsy” content.
If the website’s pages only display product images with little in the way of text, it could be a sign that the site has been put together quickly, with the sole purpose of securing sales for non-existent products before being taken down again.
Check for Diverse Payment Options
Reputable e-commerce sites will offer a range of payment options and usually support several different credit cards, along with secure digital payment apps such Google Pay, MasterPass and VisaCheckout.
Beware of websites that only offer the option of transferring money to a Pay-Pal account. Western Union wires and payments that can only be made in cryptocurrency or I-tunes vouchers should also be avoided – these are nearly always fraudulent.
And remember to keep an eye on the website URL when clicking through to a payment page: a padlock should appear before the website address to assure you that the site is secure.
Parting with your hard-earned money to an anonymous online seller can be daunting at the best of times so, even if you’re confident they’re legit, there’s no harm in asking if you can split payments, i.e. by paying half to secure the sale, and the remaining half when the product arrives.
What to do if you think you’ve been scammed
- Contact your bank
If you suspect you have been a victim of a fraudulent seller online, get in contact with your bank immediately and explain the situation. They will sometimes be able to reverse the transaction, especially if you have paid via credit card.
- Report the crime
Get in touch with your local police station and file a crime report about your experience – you can also look into the option of taking out a County Court Judgement against the fraudulent company. You should also report your experience to Trading Standards and Action Fraud.
- Get the word out
Even if you have had the misfortune of being scammed, you can help someone else from suffering a similar fate by sharing your experience.
Write negative reviews detailing your encounter with the fraudulent seller on channels such as Trustpilot and Google so that future shoppers may come across them when researching the company.
You can also take to your social media to recount your experiences and ask your friends and followers to share and re-post for maximum exposure.
Although falling victim to scam sellers is an unfortunate reality of online shopping sometimes, you can drastically reduce your risk of being conned by keeping your wits about you online.
By always checking an e-commerce website carefully before you place your order, the chances of a positive online experience are greatly increased.
Positive reviews, clear contact details, quality images and secure payment options should all feature on a reputable online seller’s website.
And remember, always trust your instinct and, if in doubt, abandon that cart!
Good luck and happy shopping!
You can shop with full peace of mind at The Wholesaler UK – safe in the knowledge that all the sellers advertised on our directory have been personally vetted and verified by us first. Browse our trusted online suppliers and diverse range of product categories here.