by Venus Zoleta, on category "Personal Finance"
December 11, 2018
Online scams in the Philippines are on the rise, based on the latest data from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG). Most cybercrime complaints that the PNP ACG receives come from victims of online scams, particularly online shopping scams and other forms of illegal online activities.
Nobody likes getting scammed, but not everyone knows how to secure themselves against online shopping scams.
How do you ensure your safety when transacting with an online shop or seller? Keep these tips in mind to avoid online shopping scams and losing your hard-earned money.
An online scammer pretends to be a legitimate seller using a fake ad on an authentic e-commerce platform or a fake website. The fraudster tricks a customer into paying for a non-existent product and then delivers nothing and runs away with the money.
Other online scammers are a little clever. They’re good at deceiving people with their cunning sales pitch, making it appear they’re selling a genuine product. The customer then gets shocked to receive a fake product or one that’s entirely different from what’s advertised.
When buying items online, watch out for the red flags. Here are the common warning signs of online shopping scams:
If your online transaction has one or more of these telltale signs, save yourself and don’t push through with the order.
Never take a chance on an online shopping site that isn’t secure. Check the website’s address bar: its URL should start with “https” (not “http”) and there should be a closed padlock icon. These security features encrypt all communications between your browser and the website, protecting your sensitive information such as credit card number, address, and password.
Read more: 9 Best Online Shopping Sites in the Philippines for Buying Christmas Gifts
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are popular modes of online shopping in the Philippines nowadays. They offer great deals and a convenient way to shop.
However, unlike online stores and e-commerce platforms, social media sites provide less protection from online shopping scams. Anyone can just create fake accounts and sell on social media. There’s no system to monitor sales and screen legit sellers from fraudulent ones. Also, customers aren’t protected from delivery issues and damaged items.
While some entrepreneurs make money legitimately out of selling items on social media, others take advantage of unsuspecting customers. So be wary when buying from sellers on social networks. Transact only with a seller that’s recommended by your trusted family and friends.
Do your research before you shop. This is a lesson actress Glydel Mercado learned the hard way when she fell victim to an online shopping scam. She purchased a projector with her credit card, but the item was never delivered. Had she done an online search of the company, she would’ve seen numerous complaints posted by disappointed customers, calling the company a “scam.”
Before you trust an online shopping site with your credit card information, verify the company and browse reviews online.
People who sell genuine products provide as much information to potential customers. Feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like about the product. Specifically, ask about the condition, specs, reason for selling (for second-hand items), and where it’s made.
Think twice before giving your confidential information to individual sellers. Online shopping scams usually involve sellers who try to gain customers’ trust and then ask for their personal and bank account details.
When a seller requests your birthdate, address, credit card number, CVV, or other sensitive data, refuse and cancel the transaction.
Legitimate and trustworthy online shopping sites have clear-cut, detailed, and fair policies on returns, refund, shipping, and customer data privacy. They have a dedicated customer service team that handles disputes or complaints on delivery or the product. Make sure that you’re dealing only with online shops that have these features on their website. You can compare refund and returns policy of Lazada and Shopee here.
Cash on delivery is among the safest payment option, especially for high-value items, as it assures that you’ll get your order. Paying in cash works best if you’re buying from sellers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
If you’re shopping at an e-commerce platform, the most secure payment services to use are PayPal and credit card. If the seller asks you to pay outside the e-commerce site’s payment system, it’s likely a scammer. Online scammers prefer payments via wire transfer, international money transfer, or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These payment methods make it hard for customers to recover their money.
Also, make sure to disable the option to remember your PayPal or credit card details on the online shopping site. It may be inconvenient to input your information each time you pay, but it’s a lot safer than when your phone or laptop gets stolen and someone gets hold of your confidential data.
Ask for a meet-up with the seller so that you can inspect the product, especially when buying from social media sites or through buy-and-sell websites like OLX and Sulit.ph. Legitimate sellers won’t mind meeting their customers and allowing them to inspect the product before receiving the payment.
It’s best to bring someone with you on your meet-up, preferably one who’s knowledgeable about the product you’re buying.
If you aren’t satisfied with the product or it isn’t up to par with what’s advertised, haggle the price or cancel the purchase altogether. It’s well within your right as a consumer.
If you got duped by an online shopping scam, prevent the scammer from deceiving more victims. Report the scam to the online shopping site or online buy-and-sell site so that the seller’s account will be blocked or suspended. Then file a formal complaint to the PNP ACG through its website, email (email@example.com), or hotline number (723-0401 loc 5313).