9 Useful Tips to Protect Yourself Against Online Shopping Scams

by Venus Zoleta, on category "Personal Finance"

December 11, 2018

Online Shopping Scams Philippines | MoneyMax

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.

1. Know How to Spot Online Shopping Scams

Online Shopping Scams Philippines
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.

Signs of Online Shopping Scams

When buying items online, watch out for the red flags. Here are the common warning signs of online shopping scams:

  • Products with incredibly low prices compared to other online shopping sites, especially for high-end brands
  • Product features and benefits that sound too good to be true for the price
  • No additional details and pictures of the product
  • Inconsistent answers on questions about the product
  • Refusal to meet up or making a lot of excuses
  • Insisting on immediate payment before sending the order
  • Asking customers to deposit payment directly to a bank account or mobile wallet account instead of going through the online shopping site’s preferred payment method
  • Vague or non-existent info on shipping, return, and refund policies
  • Asking for customer’s financial information (via email or pop-up message) while browsing the site
  • No contact details on the website or social media profile

If your online transaction has one or more of these telltale signs, save yourself and don’t push through with the order.

2. Shop Only at Trusted and Reputable Websites

Online Shopping Scams Philippines

Photo from PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group Facebook page

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

3. Be Cautious When Buying From Sellers on Social Media

Online Shopping Scams Philippines
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.

4. Verify the Product and Seller

Online Shopping Scams Philippines
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.

Tips to Verify a Seller and Product

  • On Google, search for the company or product name along with “reviews,” “scam,” or “complaints.”
  • Do an online research on the original item (where it’s made, manufacturing date, etc.). Compare the specs against those of the product being sold online.
  • Browse the product ratings and reviews if you’re shopping at e-commerce sites such as Lazada and Shopee. You can find them under the product description.
  • If you’re shopping on a Facebook page, check the Reviews section. If there are a lot of negative reviews claiming that the seller is a scam, that raises a red flag already.
  • Check the online seller’s profile (if the person is selling on social media in a personal capacity). It’s a fake account if it’s created just a few days ago and doesn’t seem to have customers (based on comments on posts).

5. Ask the Seller a Lot of Questions

Online Shopping Scams Philippines
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.

6. Never Share Your Personal and Bank Details

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.

7. Check the Seller’s Refund or Returns Policy

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.

8. Use a Secure Payment Method

Online Shopping Scams Philippines
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.

9. Ask to Meet Up

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.

Final Thoughts

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 (pnp.anticybercrimegroup@gmail.com), or hotline number (723-0401 loc 5313).
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