How to avoid scams when shopping for Christmas

Online shopping scams are quite widespread. When sales increase, their activity is also on the rise

How to avoid scams when shopping for Christmas. Source: shutterstock.com

Holidays are coming and here you are again – equipped with a long shopping list, children’s letters to Santa, your credit card, and a cup of hot coffee (since choosing presents may take a loooong while) – sitting comfortably in front of your laptop or tablet. That’s right, you’re not running all over big shopping malls since even if you will eventually buy presents in a traditional brick-and-mortar way, you are most likely to browse available offers first. At least, statistics say so.

Some holiday stats for you to consider provided by Statista:

  • In 2019, the US holiday season e-commerce spending is projected to surpass $135 billion;
  • 65% of the respondents buy Christmas gifts in online stores;
  • 60% of US consumers start holiday shopping before December (with Black Friday sales and all – who can resist?);
  • 82.3% of US consumers plan to use Amazon for their holiday shopping. Other online shopping platforms and social media are also part of the pre-Christmas agenda;
  • 75% of shoppers browse online with their tablets while holiday shopping, 64% read product reviews and compare prices, and 67% end up buying on their mobile devices.
holiday shopping behavior

Prepare for your shopping responsibly. Source: shutterstock.com

And now some more troubling stats from different sources:

  • $4,482,715 was lost to online shopping scams in Australia this year, whereas 23 thousand people reported facing phishing scams and 10 thousand more witnessed false billing;
  • In Hong Kong, online shopping scams are up nearly 35% from 2018 with an average of six Hongkongers per day falling victim;
  • According to Which?, 62% of people in the UK say they have been targeted by online scammers in the last 12 months;
  • Payment fraud impacted a record 82% of organisations in 2018;
  • By rough estimation, online sellers will lose $130 billion to online payment fraud between 2018 and 2023;
  • In the Netherlands, only 10% of online scam victims got their money compensated while 60% of all victims didn’t report the incident at all (neither to the police nor to their bank or fraud help desk).

As you can see, online shopping scams are quite widespread. When sales increase, their activity is also on the rise. But don’t let this info steal your Christmas cheer. Prepare for your shopping responsibly: follow the main rules of online safety and look for some red flags while ordering. Our article will help you with that.

Filter the offers

Comparing prices is perfectly fine and even wise, but don’t forget they should be reasonable. Someone selling the latest iPhone for $10 sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Therefore, the first rule of thumb is  – if it looks too good to be true, it most probably is. If an item is much cheaper than its regular price, it is rarely a discount or promotion, but often a fake listing or a counterfeit copy.

Stay away from unknown sellers, especially on social media where you’d have to perform a direct transaction without an authorised payment gateway. As soon as you send the money to a scammer, they’ll usually block you, so there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes the miser makes you pay twice, so you’d better spend a few extra bucks to buy from reputable sellers than choosing a stranger’s shop which may be far from trustworthy.

Stay away from unknown sellers. Source: unsplash.com

Even if you think you’re buying from someone you know, bear in mind that a scammer could’ve hacked their social media. They also can create pretty good copies of well-known websites and platforms.

Check the reviews and authenticity

Firstly, get into the habit of occasionally glancing up to the address bar of your browser whenever you visit a new page. Remember, the real domain name appears right before the top-level domain (e.g. .com/). So, if it’s paypal.com.whateverotherinformation.com/, the website is not really Pay Pal’s domain.

Never trust an HTTP website with your personal information. The secure version is HTTPS. It’s easy to remember as S stands for Security. This protocol prevents communications from being intercepted and read by anyone but you and the website you are connected to.

The most secure connections will have the padlock icon too. It’s possible for a URL to have HTTPS in it but for the padlock icon not to appear correctly. This indicates that there is some security issue with the connection – usually mixed content, when a site is still loading some assets that are HTTP – and represents a cause for concern. In this case, it’s best to assume you do not have a secure connection. Most browsers also allow you to view the certificate by clicking the padlock icon in the address bar.

If you’re up for little more investigation use the Google Safe Browsing Transparency Report. It allows you to copy and paste the URL into a field and it gives you a report on whether or not you can trust that website.

Holiday gifts

Shopping on social media or trusted platforms is tricky as well. Source: unsplash.com

Shopping on social media or trusted platforms is tricky as well. Check the reviews of the listing and the seller carefully. Many of them are fake or paid for by the seller. Be careful if you see too many similar reviews, lengthy praises, texts that could be used in commercials, or numerous short comments like “great service”, “ok”, “all good”, etc.

Choose safe payment methods

Some payment methods have more advanced protection means than others. For example, credit cards give you extra protection if the stuff turns out to be fake or never arrives. Section 75 protection gives you the right to a refund for faulty items worth £100 – £30,000. It also applies if the company goes bust after you have bought something from them, but you never get what you have paid for (like flights).

Bank transfers, on the other hand, move the money instantly. Scammers usually move the money you’ve sent to a different account as soon as they get it and you lose any chance to ever get it back.

If you pay with a debit card, you can sometimes ask your bank to start a chargeback. If your purchase is faulty, fake, or never actually arrives, you can try to sort out the problem with the seller directly. Yet, if it doesn’t work, start the official chargeback process.

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