Online shopping isn’t just convenient. For many people, it has become a lifeline in a year when we are unable to visit brick-and-mortar retailers as safely as we once did. Unfortunately, though, where there’s money being spent, there are also scammers trying to cash in. Ecommerce sales increased 37% in Q3 2020 alone, which means there’s no shortage of opportunities.
This may sound scary, but shopping online is still perfectly safe in most cases—especially when you know how to spot untrustworthy websites and deals. Here are some tips you can use to keep yourself safe when you shop online.
First, always double check to make sure you’re on the correct website. Some scammers will essentially copy websites from popular retailers and make fake websites that look similar to the real site. The fake website’s URL may even be similar to that of a legitimate retailer.
The good news is, you should be able to tell the difference by looking closely. On a real website, the URL will match the name of the retailer. For example, Target’s website is simply “target.com.” On a scam website, though, the retailer name may be misspelled with extra letters in the URL. Look for misspellings like “targgget.com” instead of “target.com” or “macyyys.com” instead of “macys.com”.
Another thing to watch out for are deals that simply seem too good to be true. Deals from a legitimate retailer are one thing—you know you can trust that 50% discount if Bed Bath & Beyond is offering it on their website. However, if you see a seller offering name-brand and luxury goods at a fraction of their retail value, be wary. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. These types of scams are especially common marketplace sites like Craigslist, Ebay, and Facebook.
Finally, do your research. Carefully researching the product you’re trying to buy is one of the best ways to ensure you (or the person you’re buying for) are happy with the item. An extra benefit is that it gives you a chance to check out the item on a number of sites and make sure you’re getting the best price.
For extra peace of mind, make sure to shop with a credit card instead of a debit card online. If you do end up losing money to a scammer, credit cards tend to have better fraud protection tools. You also won’t have your actual money tied up as you work through reversing any fraudulent charges.