From the comfort of your room, you can buy a wetsuit or a smartphone at a store halfway around the world. Press a few buttons and you can have it delivered to your door.
Unfortunately, this comfort comes with many risks. Among the thousands of legitimate products that you will find in an online retail store, somewhere in between are fraudulent products. And it is easy to become prey.
Here are some helpful tips for distinguishing scam products from legitimate products when shopping online.
1. Search for the product name
The easiest way to spot a fake product is to do an old-fashioned Google search. If someone has had an unfavorable experience with a product and wrote about it, chances are Google has taken it over.
Search for the product title, then repeat with different variations of the name. If no information arrives on a product, it is not a good sign. It could mean that it’s unheard of or that it’s a made-up name.
When you search for the product on a search engine, enter the name next to the supplier’s name. This will help search engines narrow your search on that store. A legitimate product name could be used to market a counterfeit product. However, if the seller has a history of scams, adding the seller’s name should make things a lot clearer.
2. Do a reverse image search
More often than not, when sellers list a nonexistent or fake item for sale, they will use stock images or an image from another seller as the product image. Doing a reverse image search will expose this.
If you think a product on an ecommerce platform is suspicious, there are two ways to check it. The first is to upload the photo or screenshot of the item to images.google.com. Click on the camera icon on the right side of the search bar. When a file download prompt appears, download your image to start a search.
Or if you are using Chrome, right click on the image and then click Search for an image on Google.
If Google locates other copies of the image on a stock image site or other e-commerce platform, that’s a red flag. However, this is not conclusive evidence, so you will need to do more research. Wholesale brands sometimes provide images for retailers to use for marketing. Nevertheless, always treat lifted images with suspicion.
If you visit images.google.com from your phone’s browser, you’ll need to switch to desktop mode to be able to see the camera icon that triggers a download prompt.
If the seller is using a product video instead of an image, that’s not the end of the road. Take several screenshots of scenes from the video and run a reverse image search. You should find other instances if it has been used online before.
Berify, TinyEye and prepostseo are specialized alternatives to Google’s image search.
3. Examine the product review
Reviews carry a lot of weight in deciding whether or not to buy a product. Retailers know this. This is why they invest a lot of time and money to make sure that the reviews for their product are positive whether it is a scam or not.
To distinguish scam products from real ones, you will need to unlearn and relearn how you read reviews. Never trust the overall rating. Ratings can be manipulated by brands to promote their product.
When reading reviews, watch out for black and white opinions. Real reviews will usually have mixed opinions: they will include good and bad. A review that seems to only praise a product is probably wrong.
Likewise, watch out for superficial reviews that lack detail or depth. Real reviewers can describe a specific experience they have had while using a product. Their review should be able to demonstrate considerable knowledge gained from first-hand experience.
Beware of reviews full of marketing words. Pay attention to strongly worded descriptions. A review for a modem that has descriptors like “super explosive speed”, “lightning speed out of this world” or “unprecedented data transmission speed” is highly likely to be wrong.
Average customers just don’t use this kind of wording in their review, no matter how much they like a product.
If too many reviews are showing red flags, the product is probably bogus or not as good as advertised.
4. Watch out for questionable warranty and return policies
Another telltale sign of an ongoing scam is a questionable warranty and return policy. If a product costs more than a few hundred dollars but comes with a short warranty, be careful. Products with a high price should have a warranty period longer than a few weeks!
Likewise, counterfeit products also come with a summary return policy. Sellers of counterfeit products generally impose a return window of a few days for defective products. Others will ask you to pay to have the product shipped to them, and in many cases, to an overseas address.
A warranty or return policy that is not up to industry standards for a particular product is usually a sign of foul play – definitely avoid it.
5. Beware of ridiculous prices
As a general rule, if a price is too good to be true, it usually is. A $ 50 Rolex has the word “fraud” written on it. Even when prices are labeled as “discounted,” ridiculous deals on rare luxury goods are a huge warning sign.
In the best case scenario, you receive a counterfeit. In other cases, the product never comes. Don’t be fooled by the low prices.
6. Pay attention to the product description
Sometimes fraudulent sellers hide their scams in plain sight. To avoid the hammer of the ecommerce platform they use, they tactfully include the “real description” of the product they are selling amid a flurry of irrelevant information.
You can think of a smartphone as a product image, but what is being sold can be smartphone cases or other components. To further deceive potential buyers, sellers usually raise their prices so that they are close enough to the product you think it is, but low enough to make you pay for it.
Take the time to read the detailed product description to make sure an item is what you think it is.
In addition, some counterfeit products contain grammatical errors. Louis Vuitton could be spelled like Vitton and Versace like Vasache or any other variant. Original brands won’t make such cheap mistakes.
In some cases, these misspellings are not exactly mistakes. They can be intentional and are usually a way for malicious vendors to protect themselves in the event of a dispute. They will claim to have advertised “Vitton” and not “Louis Vuitton” in order to invalidate a consumer’s claim to be sold as a fake.
7. Find the supplier
A malicious seller will almost certainly sell fakes. That’s either it or they’ll take your money while you endure an endless wait for your product. Either way, spotting a fake seller will help you avoid the scam products they are offering for sale.
A common way to spot a fake store is to check which country it is shipping from. Countries like China and Malaysia make a lot of good quality products. Unfortunately, they are also responsible for a large part of the counterfeits circulating around the world.
According to a European Union report, 72% of counterfeit products circulating in the United States, Japan and the EU are shipped from China. While it doesn’t make sense to blacklist shipments from China outright, you need to be extra careful when dealing with them.
Besides the location of the seller, search the seller online to see if it is being flagged as a scam by any site. Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot are two useful websites for checking the trustworthiness of a brand. And Google search can unearth a lot of information.
Stay wary until your goods arrive
No matter where you shop online, always maintain a healthy level of distrust until your goods arrive at your doorstep. Make sure the products you want to buy and their sellers tick all the right boxes.
Online sellers enjoy a considerable level of anonymity. This makes it difficult to get a refund when the need arises. Do not put yourself in such a position. Stay safe by being vigilant and suspicious.
Don’t rely on that review or that 5-star rating on Amazon to decide on a product. The only way to find a true opinion is to learn to spot these fakes.
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