While many online retailers and sellers are legitimate unfortunately scammers have taken advantage of the relative anonymous nature of the Internet to rip off unsuspecting consumers. Knowledge is indeed power so without further ado here are the top four common shopping scams.
1) Cheap items shopping scam
There’s lots of websites out there offering high priced merchandise, such as sunglasses, watches, electronics, clothing and shoes at extremely low prices.
Unfortunately, some of these sites are scams where the items they’re selling are actually cheap knock-offs. Even worst, some of these scammers won’t give you anything for your hard earned money you paid them. They’ll simply take your money and run.
What to do if you suspect you’re a victim of this scam
If you think you’ve been taken by this scam immediately contact your credit card company or bank and file a dispute for the charge.
How to avoid being a victim of this scam
Look for some of these clues that the website is in fact a scam site:
- These websites a lot of the time have in stock every single brand name fashion item or shoe (Nike, Air Jordan, Tommy Hilfiger,Gucci, etc.) and a lot of the time at a discounted price.
- The scam site will say they are an outlet for a major brand or perhaps even a certain item or line.
- Here’s a big clue. The scam sites will have the actual images at the bottom of the site claiming to be secured by Norton or different legitimate payment processors but will not actually have any links to them.
- Another sign to watch out for that you’re dealing with a less than legit site is that the site will a mish-mash of categories and poor grammar. In some cases, established legitimate websites will have their domain name jacked or will get hacked and become scam stores. One big clue to look for that this has happened is that the domain name of the store will be totally unrelated to what they are selling.
- I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is. Who’s going to offer you a brand new iPhone, iPad, etc. at a whopping 80% or whatnot?1?
2) Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Merchandise Scam
You’re minding your own business on Amazon or perhaps you’re only Googling for a specific item. Than you see it for an incredibly low price from a third-party seller. You know and trust Amazon so without hesitation you order the item.
While there’s many genuine and trusted third-party sellers on Amazon sadly there’s some scammers too taking advantage of Amazon such a well known and trusted merchant.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be a victim of one of these despicable scammers one of three things most likely happens.
1. The third-party seller marks the item(s) as shipped, sending you a phony tracking number. The funds are released to the seller from Amazon and the seller up and disappears, no where to be found. The good news is that you’re eventually fully refunded by Amazon, with Amazon taking the losses.
2. In the second scenario you’re not so lucky. In this case, the seller cancels the order right away, telling you to re-order the item directly from their website, in most cases guaranteeing that the order is still fully protected by Amazon.
The seller than promptly takes your money and runs no where to be found. Things than go from bad to worst with you being told by Amazon that the don’t offer any protection on items that are sold outside of Amazon and that they can do nothing to help you.
3. In the third case, right away the seller cancels the order, advising you to instead pay them with an unused Amazon gift card by emailing them the code on the back of the card. Once the scammer uses the code you can kiss your money good-bye as Amazon cannot refund you for it.
How to avoid being a victim of this scam
There are some definitely clues to look for that the third-party seller is in fact a scammer. Have a look at their storefront. They’ll be brand spanking new sellers selling a large variety of items at low prices.
Their Amazon names most likely will be a variation of FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME or outright gibberish.
Once in a while though storefronts that are well established will get hacked by the scammers. As I’ve already said twice and will say again if the deal is too good to be true than it most likely is.
3) Free Trial Scam
In the free trial scam on the merchants website, typically a landing page, you are offered a free trial where you just have to pay a small fee for shipping and handling such as $2.99 or $4.99.
This scam might be for products such as weight loss supplements(for example garcinia cambogia), face creams, teeth whiteners and I even read of one for diapers.
Unfortunately, in this scam, the free trial turns out to be far from free where buried in the fine print it states that unless you cancel within a certain amount of time, commonly 14 days, you’ll be signed up to receive a subscription of the product on a regular basis, typically every month/every 30 days.
The product that you’ve signed up for a subscription for is generally a highly inflated price. For example, I read of one of these unscrupulous companies that charges $129.89 every thirty days for a thirty day supply of garcinia cambogia.
This is absolutely ludicrous as on Amazon.com you can purchase 180 pills of a highly rated and popular garcinia cambogia supplement — Garcinia Cambogia *** 100% Pure Garcinia Cambogia Extract with HCA, Extra Strength, 180 Capsules, All Natural Appetite Suppressant, Weight Loss Supplement — for less than $20.
Not only is the price you pay for the product ridiculously high it very well might be an inferior product.
I was a victim of the free trial scam for garcinia cambogia, a weight loss supplement. An expert on the Dr Oz show recommends that in order to be effective for weight loss garcinia cambogia needs to contain a minimum of 60 percent HCA (hydroxycitric acid).
Garcinia Cambogia Pure Select, the item that I unintentionally signed up for a subscription for, contained only 50 percent HCA.
These scam companies often use deceptive marketing techniques as well to get you to sign up for the product.
This includes fake news articles, phony endorsements from well known celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Celine Dion and Dr Oz as well as pop-up surveys that are fake and designed to look like they come from reputable sources such as Air Canada, Rogers and Costco.
Many of these deceptive marketing techniques are used by less than scrupulous affiliate marketers who can make a substantial amount of money for every sale.
In an attempt to avoid negative reviews on the Internet these companies are constantly changing their product names. The RCMP have discovered that one scam company selling subscriptions for face cream has 371 product names all for the same product.
Many people don’t realize that they have been scammed until they see charges from the company on their credit card, which over time can be racked up in the amount of hundreds of dollars.
The charges might be under the name of a variety of bank processor names which in reality are all the same scam company. These companies do this to make it extremely difficult for you to stop future charges of the product. I’ve read numerous complaints where people stopped charges from one name of the company only to be charged at a later date by a different company, which actually is the same company.
Think you’ll be able to get the credit card company to reverse the charges? Unfortunately, credit card companies rarely reverse the charges for these free trial shopping scams, also known as subscription schemes.
Marketplace on the CBC was told by Mastercard’s customer service that consumers are responsible for finding any charges that may be listed in the terms and conditions, no matter how hard they are to see.
These scam companies might trick you in signing up for more than one subscription for different products. A costly low-cost trial offer explains one such instance where you’re taken to two different checkouts for two different products from the same company.
In the case described on this post they were inadvertently signing up for a monthly subscription of two separate products at a cost of $94.31 a month each which came to a monthly charge total of a whopping $188.96.
Another method these less than reputable companies will use to get you to sign up for more than one product is having an already-checked box where you’re agreeing to be signed up for a subscription of another product. This check mark might give them the go ahead to continue the offer past the free trial as well.
What to do if you have fallen victim to a free trial offer scam
If you are have fallen victim to the free trial scam there are some definite steps that you can take to attempt to get your money back or in the very least not having any further charges be placed on your credit card by these scam companies.
- Contact the company you’ve unwittingly signed up for a subscription with to request a refund and demand that any future charges be canceled immediately. I’ve read some reports on the Internet where consumers were able to get full refunds by threatening to report the companies in question to the attorney general.
- If the company will not refund you to avoid any further charges on your credit card it might be wise to cancel your credit card.
- Contact your credit card company to dispute the charges if the company does not agree to refund you. There is definitely no guarantee that you’ll get your money back from the credit card companies though as most of the time the credit card companies are not reimbursing the consumer for the charges placed by these scam companies.
- Be sure to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
- Report the company to the Federal Trade Commission via the FTC Complaint Assistant at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- Consider using a pre-paid credit card available at most convenience stores and other retail outlets for future online purchases. This will help prevent you from having multiple future charges on your credit card from scams such as the free trial scam.
4) Dropshipping Shopping Scam
You see an enticing ad on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook or perhaps on Reddit.
The ad is offering merchandise greatly discounted or believe it or not even free (sometimes in return you have to like their page or reblog).
All they ask in return is that you pay the shipping.
The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is,” rings very true in this case. If you do in fact receive the item it will end up being inferior quality and on top of that you won’t receive the item for many weeks or even months.
Worst yet, in some cases the item never arrives, and the scammer stops responding to your emails/phone calls or the store simply disappears.
This is called a dropshipping scam because the scammer actually drop-ships the merchandise from China. It likely costs just a few dollars and the shipping if you can believe it is in fact paid for by the government of China.
You’re stuck with a very poor quality $4 item which you paid $10-$15 for, with the scammer pocketing the difference. Not a bad profit for the scammer is it?!?
If you come across this type of scams but really would like the item, you can likely find it on a legitimate discount online Chinese retailer such as AliExpress or Everbuying.