How to Identify Fraud Shopping Websites: 12 Best Tips

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Spot scam shopping website
I still remember the day when I nearly got into a Shopping scam as I followed a link in a Phishing email I received. I haven't realized that it is a fraudulent shopping website until I reached payment page where the webpage has No Https (or Encryption).

People losing millions of dollars in these online shopping scams, ironically just due to the lack of basic knowledge to identify a scam website.

It's becoming harder to Identify Scam websites as Fraudsters getting smarter. But it isn't so hard if you learn few Tips & signs to Spot scam sites.

So I researched about these Scam shopping websites and compiled some very useful tips to spot a fake shopping website and avoid losing your money in online shopping scams.

How to Spot a Fake shopping website

1. Observe the Design of the website

The first thing that grabs your attention at a glance when you visit a website — Design of the Website

A legit shopping website always cares about the user experience. So they keep the design of their website neat & clean and make it easy for the user to Navigate.

As most of the Fraudulent shopping websites are in a hurry of making money, they don't put much effort on design. So their websites commonly end up Having:
  • Crappy or Unprofessional Design
  • Unprofessional Logo and Favicon (the small Icon in the browser tab)
  • Unreasonable Popups and Errors
But please wait a moment! What if the website looks Good.You can't say that an online store is Legit, just by its design. As it is easy to get a professional design for few bucks.
A Good looking but a Fake website
A Good looking but a Fraud shopping website
Never decide a Shopping website to be Legit just for the reason, it looks great and professional. Tweet This

2. Unpleasant domain name

A Domain name is the Address of a website which you usually enter in your browser to go to a website (Usually Homepage).
For Example, the Domain name of this website is www.digicular.com

Most of the Fraudulent shopping websites have suspicious domain names which look genuine but are misleading.There are certain signs to identify them.

Fake shopping websites often use Long and Hyphenated domain names with popular Keywords in it. For Example Cheap-handbags.com and Best-wholesale-boots.com

They often mislead you by including the name of popular online stores or Brands in their domain name. For example Amazon023.com  Denim-Jeans-Wholesale.com or something similar to that.

They also mislead you with sub domains. For example, Amazon.asd513.com,  here asd513.com is the actual domain and it is not real amazon website.

Remember that Legit shopping websites use Short & Catchy domain names and more probably with NO Hyphens or Numbers in it.

3. Watch out for Traces of Cloning and mimicking

Fake shopping websites often mislead you and make you believe that you are on a Real website by mimicking every aspect of Original websites.

For example, if we take Amazon, a fraudster creates a website with a domain name like 21-amazon.com and then design the website, so that it look like the Real Amazon website. These fraudsters, often copy design and logo of popular stores and Brands. 
Fake ebay website looks like original
A Fake eBay website with Identical design selling iPhone 4s. Credit: Trend Micro, 2011
But it is almost impossible to clone exact same design. So you can probably identify them with a little effort. If you ever found such mimicking, leave that Website without a second thought.

4. Short, Unclear and Grammatically incorrect Product description and specifications

Short product description in a Scam website

Another thing where Fake shopping websites get caught is the Language and Web Content.

Cyber criminals are too lazy and they do not put much effort into Writing detailed Product description, Specifications. So they just write the same Short undetailed description for multiple products which often contain Grammatical errors.

If not, they copy-paste Product specifications and description from other shopping websites and don't check for its correctness.

And some of the Fraud websites also list the products that don't even exist and these websites don't even have customer reviews.

So beware read product description and Customer reviews carefully before buying anything.

5. Impossibly-Low prices

Discounts, Cashbacks, Coupons. They are great ways save money. A company makes use of these techniques to sell their products quickly. No doubt most of these discounts and cashbacks are Genuine.

But if a website sells a product at Impossibly low prices, it is definitely a Scam.

Just think for a moment, why would anyone sell an iPhone that actually costs around $700 for as low as $200 or $300.

Fake shopping websites claim to sell products at extremely low prices that are impossible in Reality. They fool you by offering you Fake Discount coupons and Giftcards.

So Beware of Coupons and discounts. If a website promises to sell a product at prices that are Too good to be True, it is better not to buy there.

6. Safe payment methods


If you finally chosen to buy a product, then it finally comes to the point, How do you pay?
The most commonly used methods of payment are Credit card, Debit card, Internet banking, Paypal (or other 3rd party payment system.), Cash On Delivery.

These are safe methods of payment commonly used by almost every Legit shopping website.

But Fraud shopping sites don't use these methods. Because there is a chance that they get caught. And also, if you have paid with a credit card there is a chance of reverting back a payment. 

So these fake websites use Untraceable payment methods like Direct bank Transfer/ Deposit, Money order, Western Union, Moneygram. As they are not traceable and there is no chance for you to recover your money back.

Never ever shop with websites that ask you to pay using any of untraceable modes of payment mentioned above.

7. Look for HTTPS (IMPORTANT)


If you decided to trust and buy from that shopping website, then you finally go to Checkout page where you choose your payment method and Enter your payment information.

This is an important part. Now when you are on the checkout page, look at your URL bar of your browser and see if there is Padlock icon (usually in Green color) and the URL starts with https:// 
Fake website with no encryption on checkout page
Fake payment page with No HTTPS
If not then you should leave that website without thinking further. Because this means that there is no data is not encrypted & insecure and absolutely a Fraudulent Website. No Https = No Security.

8. Use Browser plugins like WOT, Avast

Tools like Web of Trust (WOT) and Avast Web reputation offer great insights which help you decide whether to trust a site or not. They rate websites and give a trust score based on reviews from users.

Just download and install WOT browser extension and when you visit a website, check the color of WOT icon. If it is Green color, then the site is safe, yellow color means moderately safe and red means highly unsafe.


Additional Tips to Identify Online shopping scams

9. Unclear or No Contact information

No other contact information besides a contact form - A fake website
If you want to investigate further, you can take a look at the contact page. In my research, I found most of the Fraud websites either hide or give false contact information.

Most fake Shopping websites leave their contact page with just a contact form and nothing else. NO contact E-mail address, NO Phone number, NO physical address.

If they do provide you with more contact information like Email address, it will be often unprofessional. For example, a Gmail or a Hotmail email address like cheapshoesstore@gmail.com  is unprofessional and is a sign of a scam.

Most of Legit stores have professional email address  under their own domain name like Amazon.com has cis@amazon.com

10. Reviews, Google


Google is a great place to check the reputation of a brand. And in this case, a shopping website.

Just Google the name of the Online store paired with the term Review (For Example- Amazon.in Review) and you will have results with a myriad of opinions of people about that Shopping website.

You can get some important information from this, like:
  1. Whether the website is reputed and popular enough. If you find fewer reviews and opinions about that website, it probably may be new and unpopular. And obviously, whether it is legit or a scam.
  2. If the website is selling Good and Original products.
  3. How well does it respond and help you after the sale of the product, in things like Return and Refund.

11. Make a Whois lookup


Well, for further research, you can check the Whois information, which is the information about domain owner.

To check whois information of a website go to any whois lookup tool like Icann whois search, Who.is and enter the Website address. Now you can see the Registrar name, Registered and Expiration data, Contact information etc.,

Now pay attention to following things:
  • Check if the Domain is registered in the name of the company rather than a person.
  • See if the company establishment year matches with domain registration year. 
  • See if the domain is Old enough to trust
  • Check if the Physical contact address matches with that mentioned on the website.

12. Unclear Policies and Terms of service

The last thing anyone wants (& Don't ) to check on a website is TERMS & CONDITIONS. No one would ever like to read those LONG, BORING text.

Yet it contains some very important points. Most of the shopping sites provide T&C separately for each aspect like Refund, Return etc., So it isn't impossible to read it.

Just take a quick look at Return & Refund policies. Most of the websites have policies like 30 Day return or 7 Days return policy. Look if there is such option. Also, check that how many days it take to issue a refund in case of return.

Don't trust websites which take a long time to deliver a product, which doesn't provide you an option to Return your product for a Replacement/ Refund.

How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams

As everyone says Prevention is the best policy. So it is better to stick to certain rules to prevent BAD from happening. Here are just a few important tips to save yourself from getting into a SCAM

Stick to Reputed sites

Rather than going for a new one, it is better to shop on the well established Shopping websites that are already popular and that you already have good experience shopping with.

There are many genuine and popular shopping sites like Amazon which offer great discounts if you are concerned about saving money. And another thing is Big stores have more feasibility to offer discounts compared to small ones.

Enter correct URL Manually

Never follow a link to open a shopping website, rather type the website address into your browser manually. And do check whether the address is correct.
Because, Misspelling can cost you. Tweet This
If you misspell there is a chance that you will be taken to a scam site. So It is better to bookmark the website so that you can cut the hassle of entering web address every time and also to make sure that you are entering the right website.

And also do keep checking URL in the address bar as you are shopping. Because sometimes even some malicious browser extensions may redirect you to scam sites in the middle.

The other most important thing to remember, Never ever follow links in an email. If you do want to check that specific offer, go to that specific website and do it manually.

Never get tempted by Low prices

As I mentioned earlier Low prices are not always good.

There are many stores that offer huge and Genuine discounts. But do not trust stores that offer discounts that are Too good to be True.

Even if they do really sell you a product for low price, there will be some fishy reason behind it, like Selling you a Refurbished/ Used product, Counterfeit or cheap version of a product.

So live in reality, never trust in impossibly low prices.

Conclusion

So to conclude it, never buy on a website that is looks and feels fishy, that which promises to sell products at impossibly low prices. And most importantly look for HTTPS, when you are entering your payment information.

Always try to buy on well-established sites. If buying on a new site, ask your friend about his/her experience with that website.

So keep in mind the above tips to spot a fraudulent/ fake shopping website and stay safe from shopping scams. 

Please post your opinions and any more tips you want to add in the comments section below, share this post with your friends on social media and help them stay safe.

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