Online shopping is a great way to save time and get items delivered right to your doorstep. But unfortunately, scammers know that people shopping online are often in a rush and capitalize on this to rip you off.
In this article, we’ll tell you all about one of the most common ways fraudsters set up online shopping scams, so you’ll have a better idea of how to protect yourself from online shopping scams.
What Are the Steps Scammers Take To Scam You Online?
1. Set Up a Fake Retailer Website Online or on Social Media
The first thing perpetrators of an online shopping scam do is usually to create a fake retailer site or a fake social media profile to attract shoppers.
The page might be for selling anything, such as clothing, jewelry, electronics, luxury items, or any other hot online shopping items. Of course, none of the items they’re selling are as advertised (if they even exist at all).
2. Make the Website Look as Real as Possible
When scammers launch their fake ecommerce stores, they try as hard as possible to make it look authentic.
They invest considerable time and energy in developing a site that looks and feels like a genuine retail site. In some cases, they copy existing sites and may even create similar URLs or steal logos from them.
3. Put Expensive Items for Sale at Low Prices
Once the online scam site is set up and functioning, the fraudsters start listing items for sale, typically at low prices that are too good to be true — because they are.
For example, they might list expensive name brand clothing at half price or offer deeply discounted electronics.
The scammers do this because they know online shoppers love a good deal, and that you’ll be more likely to shop on their site if the prices are significantly lower than elsewhere.
4. Advertise the site
Of course, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to stumble upon a fake shopping site on your own, so the online shopping scammers have to advertise it to get customers.
They often do this via social media, using paid ads and bots, for example. Or, they can purchase email lists and blast out thousands of marketing emails to shoppers’ inboxes. The ads or the emails contain links that take you directly to the online scam site.
5. Immediate Payment Demanded via an Unusual Payment
When you purchase something on one of these online shopping scam sites, it’s common for the payment window to request payment using an unusual method, such as a money order, a preloaded debit card, or a wire transfer.
The scammers prefer these types of payment methods because they are harder to trace and not as regulated as things like credit or debit card payments.
In some cases, the sites might also accept credit card payments. This is the norm when the main purpose of the site is to collect credit card information from a large number of people, which can then be used to commit identity theft or make purchases using the stolen card info.
6. Send Out Fake Items or No Items
Once you make a purchase on an online scam site, you’ll probably receive a confirmation email. The scammers want to string you along for as long as possible, so you don’t realize that you’re a victim of an online shopping scam until it’s too late.
After waiting for your purchases to arrive, one of two things can typically happen. The first option is that you receive an item that you paid for, but it is clearly fake.
For example, you might buy a designer purse that’s advertised as real and receive a cheap knockoff. The other possible outcome is that you don’t receive anything at all.
7. The Store Disappears
The final step that all online shopping scams share in common is that the ecommerce site disappears after a short period of time. This usually happens once the scammers have collected sufficient money or data, or after they have been flagged as a scam site.
Once the site is gone, the scammers are very unlikely to get caught. In fact, they’re probably setting up a new online scam site right after taking down the first one.
Fortunately, if you lose money to one of the many online shopping scams out there, it isn’t necessarily gone for good…
How a Chargeback Can Help You Recover From an Online Shopping Scam
If you use your credit card to make a purchase and realize that you were the target of an online shopping scam, you might be able to get your money back through a chargeback.
A chargeback is basically a way to dispute a fraudulent credit card payment through the financial institution that issued your card.
The steps for most chargeback processes are as follows:
- Contact your credit card company and ask about their chargeback policies
- Ensure you are within the allowed timeframe for requesting a chargeback (usually a few months after the charge or after you realize you were scammed)
- Write a letter explaining your situation and how you were scammed (including the dates and sums of fraudulent charges to your card)
- Include as much supporting evidence as possible (e.g., emails from the fake site or messages from the scammers)
- Wait for the financial institution to review your case and approve your chargeback (can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months)
- Navigating the chargeback process can be complicated, and your card issuer might not always approve your case and give you your money back.
To increase your chances of a verdict in your favor, consider contracting the services of a chargeback specialist.
Chargeback specialists are a type of fund recovery company that deal specifically with getting your money back through a chargeback after you’ve been scammed online.
They know how to navigate the system and present your case in the best light possible in order to improve your odds of retrieving all your stolen funds.