Common Sense: Too good to be true
When looking for goods online, a great deal is an obvious reason to pick an online shop. A Gucci bag for €24.99 or a new iPhone for € 399? Who wouldn’t want to grab such a deal! But scammers also know this and will try to take advantage of this fact. When looking at a website if a deal looks too good to be true, think twice and double check things.
The easiest way to do this is simply check out the same product at competing websites (that you trust). If the difference in prices is huge… it might be better to double check the rest of the website.
Check out the social media links
Social media is a core part of ecommerce businesses these days, and consumers often expect to see them on an online shop. Scammers know this and often use template designs that contain these elements. But scratch beneath the surface, and often times this functionality is not even working. The scammer(s) are often too lazy to actually implement a dedicated Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for their fake site (or don’t want a place for bad publicity to spread!).
If there are functioning social media accounts, take a quick look to see if there are any posts. Often time if the website is a scam, angry users will let you know!
Check the small print (T&Cs etc.)
Scammers often use placeholder or rushed text in these kinds of sections to give the air of professionality. If you find these pages don’t exist or are of poor quality (typos for example) think twice about this online store!
Do you really think a business would put up incomplete or sloppy text if this was their business?
Are brand names (mis)used?
A lot of fraudulent web shops use brand names (Adidas, Chanel, Apple) in combination with words like discounted, cheap or even free to get visitors via search engines. Brands usually don’t like to see their products being sold via this kind of web shops. Likewise, most serious online stores sell multiple brands and to not tie their livelihood to one brand.
Also have a look at the look and feel of these websites. Aspects such as logos and picture are usually high quality on legitimate websites, as brands want to impress you with their products. Often scammers steal real media photos from various sources. This can mean that the look of a website can appear unprofessional, with odd looking formatting or low resolution pictures.
Has a working trustmark?
Trustmarks are a method for third-party verification for an online store. This could indicate security or consumer rights protection for examples. However, scam websites also use them… not always legitimately!
For example, they might have a picture of trustmark, but it won’t actually be a verified site, meaning they are misusing the logo and misleading you!
One example of this is our own Safe.Shop trustmark. If you see the Safe.Shop logo on a website you are worried about, try clicking on it! If you find that this functionality is not working, head over to Safe.Shop and check that they are in fact a certified trust seal user.
Check the Domain name
Certain sites will try and trick you into thinking they are a legitimate one. An easy way to do so is to trick you into thinking a site is legitimate when its really just a fake.
Make sure that the domain name (the address of the website) is as expected, especially if clicking a link. Still not sure? Well a easy solution is to search for the particular page through your favourite search engine. Fake sites such as these rely on you clicking a direct link, and generally won't be high up in the rankings.
Is communication secured?
Do you see “https” in front of the web shop address and is there a green “lock” visible? In this case communication between the web shop and your browser is encrypted, making the web shop a little bit safer to use. It is no guarantee the web shop is not fake as the cost of adding an SSL certificate (what you need to secure communication) is minimal (starting at € 4,99 per year).
Visit review sites
A web shop using a well-known consumer review system is usually a good sign. However, some review systems are better than others. Check if the review system adheres to the Review Certification Standards, meaning in short that the web shop cannot delete or edit reviews without proper cause.
Visit company registries
This may not be easy if you are considering buying across the border. Every country has its own way to register companies. In the USA the Better Business Bureau is a good source. In the Netherlands you can check the Chamber of Commerce.
Are safe payment methods offered?
There are many kinds of payment methods. In general credit cards, PayPay, Alipay offer consumer protection by allowing consumers to get their money back in case the product is not delivered. Check if the web shop supports these payment methods. Never transfer money to a bank account if you have doubts about the reliability of a web shop.
Who delivers the product?
With which delivery partners is the web shop working. Not all web shops list them but some have integrated a “where is my package check”. If a reliable delivery partner is named, this is usually a good sign.
Not sure? Contact the web shop
A good web shop knows its customers want to communicate in different ways. Check if the company states a phone number, as an email (form) and is active on social media. Call the company if in doubt or send it a request for more information via email or social email. A professional web shop usually replies within hours or a maximum of two working days depending on the medium.
Still not sure? Do not do it!
When (still) in doubt, do not do it! Our advice here at Scamadviser is that if you are still unsure is to go with your intuition. Don’t let a great price cloud your judgement. If you have doubts, there are plenty of other shops to buy from.
Find out more about specific types of scams in our in-depth 'How to recognise a Scam' series below!
(Or if you’d like to hear a little more on this, check out our sister site’s article on Safe.Shop - our Global Trustmark)