As inflation continues to impact households across the United States, consumers will be watching the latest deals more closely.
Unfortunately, this also means that scammers are willing to lure people in with “unbeatable” prices and direct them to less reputable websites.
Landing on an unknown website can give mixed results. From a poor quality order that does not meet advertised expectations to never receiving the items at all. The key is knowing how to spot suspicious websites and using reliable resources to research a company before making a purchase. Unfamiliar websites aren’t always a bad thing – you might just have found your new favorite small business.
The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to take these precautions before making an online purchase, especially from unknown websites.
1. Check the quality of the design
Cybersecurity expert Kaspersky warns that poor-quality visuals, weird layouts, and poor web design can all be warning signs of a fake website. Before taking action on a site, ask yourself if the quality of the design lives up to the reputation of the business or person it represents. Scammers understand how important design quality is in order to appear more convincing, so be sure to also look for any inconsistencies in grammar, sentence structure, and content quality.
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2. Pay attention to the address and contact details
Legit online stores should provide you with a physical address and working phone number in the contact section. If these elements are missing, it’s a major red flag. Go further by researching the address to check if it coincides with the company. We also recommend that you call the customer service number to check that it is operational and to get an idea of the responsiveness of the company, in case you have any problems with your order.
3. Check for a clear and transparent return policy
Return and shipping policies should be clear and easy to understand. If a store has policies, but you’re not convinced they’re legit, try copying and pasting the policy section into your web browser to see if it was copied and pasted from another website. .
4. Do a search for reviews and potential scams
If you still can’t tell if a website is real or fake, try typing the website name and the word “scam” or “review” into your web browser. If other people have fallen victim to a fake site, you are likely to find reports when you search for scams. A reputable store should have plenty of reviews to review. Be wary of reviews that are generic, robotic or unnatural, or too brief because they could be fake.
Also be sure to check out their BBB business profile on BBB.org to view ratings, potential consumer alerts, complaint reports, and verified customer reviews.
5. Shop online with a credit card
In the event of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card offers additional protections. It’s also another way for consumers to report the incident and potentially get their money back.
6. Keep your order documentation
Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s mail-order rule, when shopping online, sellers are expected to ship your order within the time frame indicated in their listings or within 30 days if the listings do not give a time frame.
If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, they should give you a revised ship date, with the option to cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new ship date.
For more consumer advice, visit bbb.org.