How to Spot Fake Online Stores? [Identifying And Reporting Them]

Scammers are always looking for a way into your wallet. Another way hackers trick unsuspecting victims is through fake online shopping websites or fake ads to real sites that redirect the user to a spoofed website. Criminals use all the technology necessary to make fake online shopping stores appear legitimate. 

They may steal logos, and use professional designers to develop very fancy-looking websites to trick the public into buying from them. After paying for your goods, they never show up, and soon, the site is gone like it was never there.

Recently, fake online stores have appeared on social media, and users have clicked, paid, and never received their purchases. These scams operate by advertising brand-name items at absurdly low prices. They scam a few people and then quickly shut it down, making it difficult to prosecute them.

Spot Fake Online Stores

We need to be aware of suspicious online stores in general, not just known online stores. IT scammers are becoming more adept at duping us when we shop online. That is why it is important to pay close attention when you come across an online store that you have never visited or seen before.

In general, before you add items to your shopping cart and proceed to the checkout page, consider your first impression of the online store. Are there a lot of grammatical errors? Are branded products sold at low prices? Is there a physical address for the company behind the online store? Then it’s possible that it’s a fake online store.

However, keep in mind that even if you notice a language error or that the online store lacks a physical address, it is not necessarily a scam. You may also come across a scam shop where the language is perfectly written. What you should be aware of is thus a combination of several different pitfalls.

Here are a few tips for Spotting Fake Online Stores:

A. An IP address from another Country 

We’re not saying that websites with foreign IP addresses (the unique set of numbers used to identify an individual device that connects to the Internet) are always fraudulent, but data shows that transactions originating from a foreign Internet Protocol (IP) address are roughly seven times riskier than the average.

According to the surveys, websites based in China and Venezuela are the riskiest to shop from, so think twice or look for reviews before purchasing.

B. The Domain Name does not make Sense

Take a close look at the domain name to see if it is what you expect or if it differs slightly (or significantly) from what you expect. 

For example, if you’re looking for Pandora jewelry, you might end up at Pandorapick.com, which sells counterfeit Pandora jewelry, according to the Better Business Bureau. Some red flags include poor grammar in the website’s copy and the lack of encryption at the point of purchase to protect your credit card information.

C. The “S” in “HTTPS” is missing from the URL

Before making an e-commerce purchase, ensure that the URL begins with “HTTPS,” not “HTTP.” The all-important “S” stands for “secure,” and it means that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted; as they should be to protect your information.

D. If a Website Requests Financial Information while you are Browsing, 

If you receive an email or a pop-up message asking for your financial information while browsing, do not respond or click on the link. In fact, if this occurs, immediately close the window by clicking the “X” in your navigation bar; legitimate businesses never request information in this manner.

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E. Words to Avoid 

When deciding whether to buy something online, we recommend carefully reading the seller’s product description, especially the fine print. Words such as “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is not in pristine condition.

F. If something appears to be Too Good to be True, it probably is. 

You know the old old saying, if it appears too good to be true, it probably is; or, at the very least, you should proceed with caution.

If the price of an item you’re looking for is significantly lower than what you’ve seen it for on other websites, it could mean you’re being scammed or the item is counterfeit.

G. There is no Return Policy. 

If the refund policy is shady, ambiguous, or otherwise complicated, close that window immediately. Consider skipping the item if you can’t return it for a full refund if you’re not satisfied.

H. There is no Contact Information

Anyone with a computer and Internet access can set up shop online under almost any name, which is why it’s critical to confirm the physical address and phone number of the online seller in case you have questions or problems. Begin by looking for a contact page; if there isn’t one, consider it a red flag.

I. A Complicated or non-existent Privacy Policy.  

While you should expect to give up some semblance of privacy simply by connecting to the Internet, you can also learn what kind of personal information any website you visit is collecting, as well as why and how the information will be used.

If you can’t find or understand a policy, consider taking your business elsewhere.

J. Weird Google search outcomes 

Try googling to determine the legitimacy of a website. Check the search results for the site and its owner. You can also find the safety rating on Google’s Transparency Report.

K. Reviews that are negative or illogical 

Find reviews of the site or the business owner to see what others have said about them. Negative feedback? Isn’t that all you need to know? Or if the reviews are contradictory, such as reviews for a light bulb when purchasing a phone charger? 

Take this as a warning. Another red flag is if all of the reviews are positive but written in poor English or with usernames that are just a jumble of numbers and letters: they could be fake.

L. There is no credit card payment option. 

If you always shop online with a credit card, this may appear to be a no-brainer. When you pay with a credit card, your transaction is protected by the Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute charges and temporarily withhold payment while the seller is investigated.

These safeguards are not available if you send cash, a money order, or have the purchase price deducted directly from your bank.

M. Protect yourself by not Oversharing

Not only can the websites you visit cause problems; but if you overshare on social media, you may be giving away exactly the information an online scammer needs to access your credit card information (for example, your mother’s surname). 

If you do not use Multi-Factor Authentication when logging in on your mobile device, you may be more vulnerable to online scams.

N. Reporting Fake Online Stores And Other Cyber Crimes

If you believe you have been the victim of a cybercrime, immediately report the incident to the national pan-India 1930. The Government of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs established the Cyber Financial Fraud Helpline in 1930 to assist people in distress if someone fraudulently withdraws money from their accounts or digital wallets or misuses their credit/debit cards.

Such crimes can also be reported through the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (www.cybercrime.gov.in). This portal is linked to all financial intermediaries such as banks, wallets, and online retailers.

The Cyber Crime Wing of the police department uses this portal to communicate with banks and other financial institutions in order to freeze fraudulent transactions and prevent money from entering the hands of fraudsters.