Online shopping – how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud
The development of the Internet leads to the fact that there are more stores selling goods over the Internet. On one hand, this technology has a number of undeniable and substantial advantages:
- The buyer can see the available product have the opportunity to view photos of the item in different angle and to see its technical characteristics.
- The cost of creating and maintaining an Internet store is considerably less than sustaining a large retail space – the reason for that is that you do not have to pay rent, its lighting/heating/security. There is no theft of goods and the buyer may be a person from anywhere in the country.
- Delivery is quite affordable, fast, qualitative and, therefore, the goods can be delivered quickly and in a convenient way.
However, as you know, any advantages have their own disadvantages.
The main disadvantages are that:
- The online store can be created by any student; it is not difficult. Consequently, the store may not exist in reality – and it is not so easy to find out for sure;
- The buyer is “coming” in the store “virtually” – i.e., he works with the store at the site level. Consequently, he does not see the actual goods and does not know whether the product exists in reality, what is its condition, and most importantly – how the alleged specifications and pictures correspond to reality;
- Buying goods over the Internet involves a full or partial prepayment. In this situation, everything depends on the honesty of the store owner who, having received the money, may simply not send the goods or send the goods of improper quality or another type.
- Let us consider the main points that allow you to identify and avoid fraud and scams on time.
The reputation of the store
A colorful website, which shows a nice menu and pictures, as well as the assurance of exceptional integrity of this website and store is nothing more than the image on the screen. This website can be made by any student. Hosting now is very cheap and, as a consequence, the site not significance.
What is possible to determine about the site
- With different services it is easy to determine all the information about the domain of the store – in particular, when it was registered, and by whom. And if the domain has been registered recently, or is sited in a little-known or unknown host somewhere abroad – it is reason to be wary;
- It is necessary to look closely at the site in order to check for errors. The presence of many errors, as well as non-functional search engine or if half the links lead deeper into the site, should make you think twice;
- You should “run” the URL of the store by major search engines (namely Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp). By analyzing the results, it is easy to draw conclusions about the reputation of the site – often in the first 3-5 results you can find descriptions of the problems with the store or complaints of its defrauded customers. Moreover, it should be understood that reviews could be fake – but it is extremely difficult to deluge the Internet with fake reviews about a certain store. In addition, many search engines have their own store ratings, accumulating positive and negative feedback;
- One of the contributing evaluation factors is the presence of many third-party banners, various advertising, loads of buttons, counters and ratings on the web site – major resources such things are not involved, as the Internet Commerce brings them income, is incomparably more income from this advertising. Large resources are not involved in such things, as the Internet Commerce brings them income, which is matchlessly more than income from such advertising.
Reviews of the store and the product
For starters, it is important to note that in order to take seriously the reviews about the store and the quality of its work and product reviews on the store web site you need to be extremely skeptical. Therefore, to obtain a complete picture about the product before purchasing via the Internet, you should not be lazy to call and to find out more information about it.
Availability of an office and retail space
The most important thing is an existence of an office and commercial and retail space, combined with a normal legal address with telephone, fax and banking details. The main criterion here is that any real businesses would have all the above mentioned, and a real company does not hide this information. And vice versa – if there is no office, and the company offers communication via ICQ, email or Skype, or there is only one phone line – it is considered to be extremely alarming factor. If you cannot get through, or if it is unclear who responds on the other end of the phone, then the store can be deemed as unreliable. If there is a connection, then comes the second question: “Can you be physically reached (for any reason: to pay for the goods at the office, to clarify some of its characteristics)? And then often it turns out that it is an employed operator who does not know the coordinates of the office and who often has not even seen his employer. This is the second alarming factor.
So, in conclusion: before purchasing any item in the online store it is definitely worth to take a look if the store has a real office or retail space, whether it exists in reality (as a fake address is too easy to specify on the web site). Even better, if in addition to the online store the seller has a real shopping space, because it is easy to check its availability and existence, and this is a very good indicator of the store’s welfare.
Methods of payment and delivery
This issue is one of the most important ones, as the fraud begins at the stage of the chain “money – commodity – money.” At this stage at least one point has to be analyzed: How is the payment made? If the store asks you to enter your credit card number and verification code – this is a sign of a real store (and if the connection with the store goes over SSL Protocol, with a 100% satisfaction guarantee when you see the presence of a green bar in the upper right side bar) on the website. Only then you can feel free to shop there.
As you well know, the entire trade industry works on the algorithm “money – commodity – money”, i.e., while buying something cheap, the seller keeps a certain “ratio” and sells the product, making a profit due to the difference in price. Therefore, if you are prompted to buy a product at a price much less than its average price (the average price is easy to find somewhere on the Internet), there is always a catch -the seller can’t sell at a loss!
Warranty and product return policy
Warranty and return policy are one of the most important components of the trade, especially the remote one. In fact,
- Even the most respected and reliable store might send a product that’s different from the ordered one or may accidentally not send something (or send more of what was ordered). This is done usually without malice, because of computer crashes or elementary negligence of the component parts department ordering staff.
- The product sent to the buyer may be defective, or (and this is the most subtle and complex issue) – it might not meet expected and stated on the web site characteristics.
- The product may be defective or break during operation.
In such situations, an operation for return for replacement, refund or repair warranty is crucial. In such cases, honest stores have a list of procedures for returning the product, the procedure of examination and replacement, have images of the statements and have clear instructions for the procedure of sending the item for exchange and repair. Respectively, they make available supplied warranty cards and other documents indicating the comprehensiveness of the order.
So, summing up the above, we can formulate a number of tips and specific recommendations:
- Before buying you should spend 15 minutes and do a small detective investigation to find out how long the store is in business, does it have an office and an actual marketing space, as well as contact information. You should also look at the reviews of the store that exist on the Internet.
- Never enter your credit card on the store’s website. The exception to that could be a very well-known online store that’s established for a very long time. It is also necessary to ensure that the exchange of information is protected by SSL.
- When making a prepayment, it should be clearly understood that the money transferred under the “the word of honor” clause (the reason is simple – there is no bilateral agreement signed between the seller and the buyer). In the case of large and reputable store the risk is small (there is no reason for the store owners to deceive the buyer – the reputation of the store is more important);
- If the payment is to be made by credit card, then a good idea is to have a separate credit card specifically for online purchases, and not to keep a substantial sum of money on it. In this case, the risk of losing money due to theft of credit card information is at the minimum;
- It should be kept in mind that the task of any store is to sell the product. So, be sure to check all the specifications of the ordered product, to clarify its average price and appearance from a variety of sources. Radical discrepancies in the product description are an alarming symptom;
- Before ordering, you should very carefully check the terms of the exchange, refund and warranty repair of the goods. If such operations are not clearly defined, it is yet another alarming symptom. Be careful!