Dear Trudy Technology,
I am embarrassed to write this, but I recently fell for an internet scam. I thought I had found the deal of the century when I purchased a brand new pair of sneakers for my nephew’s birthday. He had been asking for them for months and I thought I had just gotten lucky. When he opened the box in front of all his friends, they were all stunned into silence. I was so pleased with myself. But then, they all burst out laughing and my nephew’s face flushed with shame. One of his friends announced loudly that you could tell they weren’t the real thing a mile away. I got up to look, and the sneakers in the box looked nothing like the photo of the sneakers I thought I purchased. My nephew said it’s okay and he understands, but I can’t help feeling like I ruined his birthday.
I never want this to happen again. Is there a way to prevent buying knock-off items online that masquerade as the real thing?
Embarrassed on the Island
Don’t feel ashamed! Smart people fall for scams all the time. But here are five tips you can use the next time you are online shopping to help you out next time!
- Check the address bar in the top right corner of your screen to make sure the website’s address starts with “HTTPS” not just “HTTP.” The “S” tells you it’s a secure domain, meaning that the site (and your information) has the required protections against hackers.
- If something for sale seems too good to be true, it probably is. A new iPhone will never be sold for $10; they retail for hundreds of dollars. Watch out for other similar scenarios.
- Research the site. A simple Google search will help you check for BBB ratings, along with other reviews and “safety scores” for the site. If the only thing that comes up is the site you’re questioning, it’s not safe. You can also check for a social media presence to verify a page’s authenticity.
- Look at the product photos. If they are all shot in the same way and the pages are cohesive a website is more likely to be legitimate. But, if some photos have a black background, some were taken in a bright white studio, while others were outdoors, this means that they probably stole the product photos from other websites and creators and you’ll receive, if anything, a shoddy knock-off if you make a purchase.
- Look at other parts of the site like the “About Us” and “Contact” pages. If these parts of the site are blank, missing, or if the content seems strange, it’s probably not a legitimate website. If there is no location or contact information available, except for a form, proceed with caution. If it does, you can find out where the company is located so that you can be wary of international scams.
If you are uncertain about a website, or if your gut says that it might not be safe, err on the side of caution and don’t make a purchase or provide them with any personal information. Navigate away and stay on the lookout for the things that will tell you whether or not the purchase you are about to make is from a real, reputable company.
Best of luck!
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