SUMMARY: Learn how to stay safe from threats while shopping online.
Online retail giants are money-making machines, not only open to sellers but to scam artists as well. Many people shop online so the chances are high you've done business with these online retailers. So, receiving a follow-up email or text message may not seem suspicious and products with great reviews may convince you to buy. Knowing what unethical sellers and scam artists are doing to take advantage of you is the first step.
One way online shoppers can fall victim is with fake product reviews. While there are many ethical online retail sellers, some turn to unethical business practices to increase sales, like “brushing” scams. In this scam, sellers send random inexpensive items to equally random addresses, generating a “sale” so they will receive a product review.
The problem is, the item is “sold” to the account of a fraudulent user who then posts a glowing product review. In the scam, the product that shipped doesn’t have to be the product sold or reviewed.
In other scams, online retail sellers pay buyers to write only positive reviews – or combine reviews for multiple products to make the products appear more popular than they are.
In these situations, shoppers often rely on product reviews to make purchase decisions. When a large portion of a product’s reviews are fake, unsuspecting shoppers can purchase and end up with poor-quality, undesirable products.
To keep yourself safe, your best strategy is to shop for items sold directly by the online retailer and other reputable sellers as often as possible. Also, look for items with free returns so you receive a refund for products that don't meet your expectations.
Some shoppers also receive emails and text messages that appear to be from the online retailer or delivery company – but aren’t. These messages may notify the recipient to set delivery preferences for a package on the way - or request payment for a large purchase you supposedly made. Whatever the content, the message is sure to contain a link.
By clicking the link, you can initiate the download of malicious software or take you to a web page that mimics an order confirmation page and requests payment or other personal information attempting to steal your identity.
To stay safe, always keep in mind what you've purchased online. If you're not expecting a package, be wary of any messages about an expected delivery. Never click on a link you don't recognize, and always verify the sender of the message. When in doubt, head directly to the website of origin and type the address into your browser. You can then check your account for pending deliveries and the status of any order. Often you can initiate a live chat to ask questions and get help.