The Internet can be a scary place. Scam, online fraud, identity thief, it seems hard to trust the world-wide web.
The first time I tried to buy online, it was on those sites advertised by Instagram showing “Free accessories, only pay the shipping”.
Five minutes later, after my purchase had been done, I proudly showed my friend (an online-shopping expert) what I thought was an amazing deal; she quickly told me it was a scam.
Don’t be naive like me and learn from my mistakes (I surely know I did). Here, I’ll make it easier for you. Never get surprised by mischievous websites ever again by carefully checking all the elements I’ll list you now.
So what are the details that scream SCAMS?
When buying online, you have to look at 3 different things in order to tell whether your purchase is a fraud or not.
The Site In Itself
You see a nice ad on the Internet, click on it and get redirected to a new site that might look fraudulent. What are your first observations?
The green lock on the left side of the search bar. This icon shows that the site is verified by Google and that every information shared is private.
Some information about the site. Look at the “about” and “contact” page of the site. Look for a reachable phone number or any information about how to contact the site’s owner. Check for the website’s year of foundation too. it’s better for you to not trust any young websites when money is involved because they have high chances of being scams.
Furthermore, do a small research of the site online. Check if the site can be found on Google or Yahoo!. Generally, you can find whether a site is fraudulent or not by typing [site’s name]+ scam.
Ads and banners. If the site is overflowing with banners and ads, especially if some are showing erotic content, you should turn on the scam alert.
A true professional website should show professional content and organization. The information should be easy to find and the website should be appropriate and organized.
Before buying the desired product, check for their reviews online. You’ll get a taste of the quality of the product. You will also see if the product actually gets delivered to your door or not.
Pictures, video reviews, etc. should help you grasp a general idea of what you’re dealing with.
Beware: sometimes, a fraudulent site could showcase fake reviews. In that case, look for a bad one (e.g: 3 stars or less out of 5). If all the reviews are positive, it might look too good to be true.
Moreover, look at the offered discount. If the discount is above 60%, a little bell in your head should ring (mine didn’t ring at a free item, don’t be like me).
Compare the offered discounts online to see if the proposed discount is respectable or too steep.
The payment procedure
This step is the most important one since you have to trust the website with your credit card’s information. At this point, you should be 75% sure your site is not fraudulent. Raise a red flag when:
They ask too much information. Websites should not require, for example, your social security number or your banking information. You shouldn’t have to enter more than what can be found on your credit card, such as the account number.
The refund policies are unclear. An online website should always be clear about how they handle your money and how they will give it back to you.
If, after reading the refund policies, you don’t understand how and if they can refund you, don’t get involved with them.
To wrap it up
Detect if a site is a scam by looking at:
- The green lock on the search bar
- Information about the site ( on the site and on Google)
- Excessive ads and banners
- Reviews of the product online
- The discount (compare with other services)
- The information they ask during payment
- Their refund policies
By paying attention to all those details, you will be a pro of scam identification. The Internet is a safe place as long as you stay careful!
Thank you for reading.
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Ryoma Martin, from The Soul’s GarmentAt your service