BUYER BEWARE: Spotting Fraudulent Online Retailers

With a major shopping season on the horizon, we remind our customers to be wary of fraudulent online merchants targeting consumers who are looking for bargain basement prices on designer merchandise.

Numerous websites have recently been reported as promising one product but shipping another – something unrelated to the original order worth only a small fraction of the value paid.  Unsuspecting online shoppers have reported ordering such items as shoes and clothing and receiving ridiculous items instead such as sponges and empty gift bags! Customers can avoid many of these online retail woes by simply by learning to recognize suspicious merchant behavior.

Some tips for bargain shopping online

Know Your Merchant
If you are purchasing something from a new seller, check out their website and review their terms of service carefully.  Legitimate retailers usually have a physical location – whether it be a store front, a home office, or a warehouse.  Proceed with caution if the only address you can find for your retailer is a PO Box or if they are unwilling to provide you with their location.

Read the Fine Print
If you’ve found what looks to be an unbelievable deal on a product, remember to check the terms of service for clues that might indicate that what you’re purchasing is actually a knock-off product.

Be Realistic About Pricing
Although many liquidators and bulk-buying retailers can offer deep discounts on products, remember to be realistic about the price of sale items.  Discounts of 70%, 80%, and 90% may be a red flag that the deal you’re being offered is too good to be true.

Look for References
Find trusted sources that have reviewed or used the websites you’re thinking of purchasing from.  Was the product received in a timely manner?  Did it arrive undamaged?  Did the consumer get what they paid for?

To help protect our users from this type of online fraud, SolidTrust Pay requires all merchants interested in direct credit card processing to complete an application and review process.  By reviewing these sites individually we can help filter out high risk applicants and businesses with suspicious terms.

As well, many payment processors, SolidTrust Pay included, can protect purchases if the merchant fails to prove that they have sent you a shipment.  Unfortunately, once you have received something from the merchant, proving that you didn’t receive what was paid for can be nebulous and the fraudulent merchant may not be shut down until numerous complaints have been received.

Remember that when you’re purchasing online, information is your ally.  Find trusted websites, get references from friends and colleagues, and look for online reviews.  Not every website with complaints against it will be a fraud, but unfavorable references can be a cue to proceed with caution and look for information on the seller’s website that might indicate trouble ahead.

 The web is often a great place to find deals from the comfort of your own home.  We encourage all of our customers to take advantage of online shopping while protecting themselves by staying informed.