More than 80 percent of the American population shops online, according to Statista figures. They estimate that number to jump to almost 90 percent by 2025. With those statistics, it’s no wonder scammers are turning to online shopping scams to steal money and personal information. As a consumer, it’s crucial now more than ever to stay alert while shopping online. Here’s a look at the most common ways scammers carry out online shopping scams and what you should watch out for to protect yourself.
1. Fake Websites
There are many fake online shopping websites that appear identical to legitimate ones. These scammers create websites and post fake products for sale. When people attempt to purchase these items, they are asked for their credit card information. The scammers then use this information to make unauthorized charges.
Fake online shopping websites can be difficult to spot. However, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
- Inspect the website’s URL. If it is misspelled or uses a strange domain name, it is a fake.
- Do your research before making a purchase. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints about the site.
- Look at the site’s design. Keep an eye out for low quality product photos, typos and grammatical errors. If you’re unsure about a website, it’s best to err on the side of caution and find another site to shop from.
2. Phony Reviews
A growing number of businesses are paying for fake reviews in an attempt to boost their ratings and attract more customers. In some cases, these businesses create their own fake review accounts. In other cases, they offer incentives such as free products or discounts in exchange for positive reviews.
While fake reviews can be difficult to spot, there are a few red flags that consumers should be aware of:
- Look out for reviews that are excessively positive or use excessively upbeat language.
- Pay attention to the dates of the reviews. If there were a bunch posted within a short time period, it may indicate that the reviews are fake.
- Be suspicious if multiple reviews use similar language. This might indicate that the scammer is paying people to leave reviews with certain keywords.
3. Phishing Emails
Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send emails or texts masquerading as a legitimate organization in order to trick people into giving them sensitive information. Online shoppers are particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks, as scammers often use fake shipping notifications or other purchase-related emails to bait their targets.
Watch out for these signs of a phishing email:
- The sender’s address may be slightly different from the real company’s address, or it may be a completely fake address.
- The email creates a sense of urgency by saying that your account will be suspended unless you click on the link and update your information.
- The email is full of grammar mistakes and misspelled words.
Online shopping is convenient and has exposed us to a wide variety of products. However, it’s important to remain vigilant against online shopping scammers. Remember, if something feels off, it probably is. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to online shopping. If you’re unsure, reach out to a trusted family member or friend for their opinion before making a purchase. If you do come across an online shopping scams report it to ReportFraud.FTC.gov—even if you didn’t lose money—so you can help others avoid the scams.