You've wanted to wear a Louis Vuitton shirt for ever – a real one, not a fake one bought on the street. But at $ 1,400, it's the way out of your price range.
And then you see a fantastic sale online. The bag of your dreams, and it is 75 percent discount. At $ 350, it's a steal, but you have to act fast. Should you go for it, or is it a scam?
At that price it's probably a scam. But that can be hard to say, because fraudsters are very good at making a false offer look like the real thing. Designer goods are a popular destination, but they are cars, event tickets, healthcare products, pets, electronics and many other items.
Many real finds are available online. To remove the good from the false, stay skeptical and know what to look for. Here are seven questions to ask yourself:
1. Does it pass the smell test?
Remember the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"? Take a closer look at the ad. Does it make sense? Does it include a fair amount of detail about the item, or is the text vague and generic? If you buy a used item, is there a photo? Are the images sharp or dark and grainy? Does the site look sloppy? Are the grammar and spelling pretty good?
Some people and companies are better than others in presenting their goods. But if the price seems too low or you get a bad feeling from your website or ad, investigate further.
2nd Is the URL a legitimate one?
Scammers are good at creating websites and emails that look legitimate. Look carefully at the URL.
- Does it begin with "https: //"? This indicates that the site is secure and all information you enter is encrypted – an important consideration when sending payment or providing personal information.
- Is the company name part of the URL? In addition to being encrypted, the company name should be in the URL without any extra words or characters. For example, "company.com" looks legitimate, but "company-sale-you-will-believe.com" does not.
- If the company is one that you have heard of, is its name spelled correctly?
- If the site appears to be a name tagged site, open a new browser window and go to the company website. Do the two places look alike? Does the company's website include the same offer?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no", assume that the offer is a scam and move on.
3rd Can you contact the company?
Legitimate e-commerce companies include mailing addresses, telephone numbers, and "contact us" information on their web pages. They also specify returns and privacy policies. If these articles are missing, you are probably shopping for a scam site. If a phone number is displayed, call it to confirm that the company is real. If you call them, ask if they are ready to sign a legal sales account with you. If they start to hesitate or make sure it is not necessary – think twice before buying something there.
4th Is the payment method secure?
A legitimate website takes credit cards with a secure payment system (displayed at https: // in the URL). Or it will use a secure third-party payment service like PayPal.
Scammers like to do things differently. They may have an insecure site. They can ask you to provide a bank account or credit card information via email. Email messages are not secure – a scam artist can use your email address for a future fraud that could jeopardize both your computer and your identity. Or the scammer may want payment by mail order or bank transfer. Money orders are difficult to track and a thief can use a bank transfer to hack into your bank account.
Paying by debit card is risky. Credit cards include fraud protection, but with a debit card you open yourself to larger losses with less protection.
5th If you buy locally, can you see and inspect the item?
If you buy something locally, make sure you see the item before handing over your cash. Make sure the item is in the advertised condition and that it is working properly. If you buy a car, have it inspected by a reputable mechanic before you seal the deal. If you buy branded products, do a little research in advance to know the signs of fake.
6th What does the internet say?
If you suspect a fraud, a quick Google search for the item or title on the list can tell you everything you need to know. Scammers often publish the same ads in multiple places over a long period of time. If people have been tricked in the past, the title may appear in your search results. Read reviews with a critical eye. If they are vague and 100 percent positive, they can be false and a sign of fraud. If people complain about being cheated, stay away. You can also search for company reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website or use the Scam Tracker tool.
If you have become a victim of a fraud sale, you can report it to the BBB or to one of the agencies listed on the USA.gov fraud and fraud page.
Erika is a copywriter who believes in the power of networking. She is an avid reader who appreciates the importance of unread books more than read.