How to identify fake online stores
Fake online stores are a growing problem in the world of e-commerce, with scammers primarily based in China creating fraudulent websites that appear to be legitimate stores.
These scammers use stock images and platforms such as Shopify or Alibaba to create convincing online storefronts, complete with logos and product images. They then offer unrealistically low prices and use urgency selling pressure tactics, such as countdown timers and limited-time offers, to entice consumers to make a purchase without doing proper research first.
Once the scammer has received payment, they either disappear entirely or send a cheap or counterfeit product instead of the one that was advertised. Consumers can protect themselves by being cautious when shopping online, avoiding deals that seem too good to be true, and doing their research before making a purchase.
What are the tell-tale signs?
#1. The registration date
To check when a website was registered, you can use a website called https://whois.domaintools.com/ for free. All you need to do is type in the website address or URL and click the search button. You’ll then see the registration date on the results page, just like in the example below.
Just because a website is newly registered doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam. However, if you notice other suspicious signs in addition to the new registration, it should serve as a warning that the website may not be trustworthy.
#2. Inadequate contact information
Head over to the contact us page. Legitimate online stores will include their address, phone number, and business name.
Phone number: If you have found a phone number for the website or company you are researching, try calling it to see if the call goes through smoothly and if the voice prompt sounds professional. Make sure the phone number belongs to the website or company you’re interested in.
If you are unable to speak to a live operator during normal business hours or the call goes straight to voicemail, be cautious as it could be a sign of an untrustworthy website or company.
Address: Check if the website or company has a physical address based in the United States. If you find one, copy it and search it on Google Maps to confirm if the location is legitimate. Sometimes, fraudulent websites or companies will use real addresses, but when you search for it on Google Maps, it appears to be a residential area instead of a business location.
Many fraudulent online stores offer unbelievable discounts on their website and use countdowns or other tactics to create a sense of urgency, encouraging consumers to buy quickly without researching the company.
If you see a website offering huge discounts on well-known brand products, copy the name of the product and search for it on Amazon. Look for alternative sellers and compare prices. If the price listed on the website you’re researching is significantly lower than the prices offered by other sellers, it is probably a scam.
Expect 3 possible scenarios if you place an order
#1. Item never gets shipped
One of the most likely things to happen when you order from a scammer is that they will charge your credit card but never actually send you the item you paid for. They’re hoping that you’ll forget about it and not follow up with your bank or the seller.
#2. Counterfeit or poor-quality items shipped
If you happen to find an online store run by scammers that actually ships what you bought, you might still end up disappointed. When you get your package, you might find that the product is not as good as it looked in the pictures, or that it’s not even the same thing you ordered.
Sometimes, they’ll send you a low-quality copy of a popular brand’s item, and other times, they’ll give you something that’s just plain cheap and badly made. Even if the website says you can return what you bought, the truth is you won’t be able to do that easily, because the products are shipped from China.
#3. You receive an empty package
Another trick that scammers may use is to send you a box filled with rocks or other useless items that match the weight of what you ordered. They do this so that if you try to dispute the transaction with your bank, they can argue that the item was indeed shipped and received by you. They’ll use the shipping confirmation as evidence and try to accuse you of lying about not receiving it, which is more common with costly purchases.
What should you do if you were scammed by a fake store?
If you’ve been scammed by an online store, you should try to contact them first using whatever contact details are available on their website. Usually, these stores won’t have a phone number, but you might find an email or contact form.
If you can’t get a refund from the store directly, don’t wait too long to take action. You need to contact your bank and ask to speak with their fraud department to initiate a chargeback. Let them know that you were tricked by a fake online store and that you tried to contact them directly without success. You can even mention a scam report you’ve made on our website if there is one available.
To avoid any future unauthorized transactions, you might want to consider requesting a new credit or debit card to be issued. This is because scammers now have access to your card information and could potentially use it again.