Nowadays, consumers are increasingly resorting to the internet for their shopping. Whilst shopping online can be very convenient, unfortunately, not all online shopping experiences are positive for the consumer. It is true that EU legislation protects consumers when purchasing goods and services online, however, consumers are still prone to falling victims of online scams. Thus, as consumers, we need to take all the necessary precautions to avoid such bad experiences. The most common cases of fraud reported to the European Consumer Centres Network are mostly related to the purchase of electronic goods, purchases of used cars online, counterfeit products, allegedly free trials and sale of tickets online.
Furthermore, new scams emerge on a daily bases. This leads to common threads which make fraudulent approaches easier to spot. The following are some of the things consumers need to look out for when shopping online in order to identify whether the site is a scam or not:
- being told that they won a prize, when they never took part in any competition
- the news comes from an unexpected call, letter, e-mail or text
- being asked to pay money before actually getting the stated prize
- being asked to confirm the prize immediately by giving the bank account or credit card details
- if the offer seems too good to be true, it usually is!
A secure website would usually have detailed information about the trader, where and how s/he can be contacted, address of the company, the date when the company was registered and the company’s registration number. One should be really careful of websites that, on the contrary, provide little or restricted means of contact, for example they would only provide an electronic address. Apart from that, safe and secure websites would include information on how a consumer can lodge a complaint together with the link for the Online Dispute Resolution platform. Together with this information, the trader should also inform the consumer about any cooling off rights, during which the consumer can cancel his order without incurring any penalty.
It is also advisable that one checks the website’s reliability. One should be aware of websites that have just been set up. It would also be a good idea to read any reviews posted by other consumers to see whether the concerned trader can be trusted or not. There are websites like scamadviser.com which would suggest if the given website is a scam or not and confirm their reliability and credibility.
Additionally, a consumer should also identify whether a website is actually safe and reliable. Reliable websites have their address starting with https:// rather than http://. The letter “s” stands for secure. One should also look for the small padlock and press on it to check the details of security. It is of utmost importance to make sure that the computer is protected against viruses and spyware.
Before making the final decision and pressing the “buy now” buttons, consumers must remember that any payment made should be done through secure means such through a credit card or Paypal. Unless you know exactly the receiver of the payment, avoid sending payments through banke transfers. Credit card details should never, in any circumstances be sent by an e-mail. Consumers need to be also aware of the presented terms and contidions which are usually presented in smaller fonts. It is advisable to watch out for the usual signs of scam, such as huge rewards and the need for personal information. One should never reply to unsolicited emails from people which s/he does not know.