Safe And Secure Shopping Tips

Although shopping online is fast and convenient, it can also be dangerous

List of tips to avoid being scammed

1. Check for a store’s return policy and privacy policy.Do they have any?
2. If their policies sound like they have just been copied and pasted from another site, then you know what their integrity level is.
3. When you come across a newbie store, find out how long they have been in operation, and double check their claim.  If they have really been operating an honest and successful business for the last 10-20 years, why would they still be based in a home/garage in the middle of nowhere?
4. If the newbie store claims to have a showroom, double check its location.  Is there a contact address or directions?  If not, why would they keep that a secret?  The bottom line is that if a seller cannot be honest about what or who they truly are, how can they be trusted about anything else they may claim?
5. Check to see if the newbie store has an IEC registration with RBI, which is mandatory for international shipping.
6. Have a look and see if a new or unknown webstore has been labeled with the warning “Beware” before you consider buying from them.  Be sure to dig around into a webstore’s background before you start browsing their oh-so-attractive catalogues.  Whatever you do, don’t give them your email address, let alone buy from them, as it is almost guaranteed to fall into the wrong hands.
7. Beware of sellers who supply only a mobile phone number for a contact and avoid giving out a fixed line number and address.  Beware of the newbie seller who uses free email accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.  Also, be aware of the seller’s ratings, as these can be manipulated and easily made up by the fraudulent seller himself. 
8. Be wary of super-low pricing.  If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
9. Make sure you research a seller’s site enough that you are able to trust them before handing over your email address or credit card information.  It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to shopping on the Internet because your online identity is at stake.  Scam artists are lurking everywhere, and it’s very easy for them to con you into sending them money via Western Union, Xoom, or other such untraceable payment methods, and, all the while, never intending to send you the item you think you are purchasing.
10. One problem with online stores is that it is difficult to judge which are being run as a one-man-show from somebody’s home/garage, and which are actually established enterprises.  It is best not to buy from a new/unheard of online store until you know of at least 5 other people who have good shopping experiences from it.
11. Research a seller BEFORE you start looking at their wares and prices.  And don’t let their top position in the results of a web search site (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) be an indicator of their trustworthiness.  Make it a rule not to buy from a seller unless they’ve been active for at least 3 years.  It also couldn’t hurt to have some of your friends or relatives check out the questionable site as well, to see if they feel it is legitimate or not.
12. Web searching sites (such as Google) are no substitutes for common sense.  Beware of paid/sponsored search results and listings.  Unfortunately, many newbie online shoppers find themselves the victim of fraudulent shopping sites, where, in some cases, they were actually buying used, rejected, second-hand, or rented items!  As far as shopping on the Internet goes, it may be safer to buy from a street hawker with cash than give up your credit card information to someone you can’t see.
13. If you happen to have friends or relatives living in an area where the online store is said to be headquartered, give them a call and ask for their opinion.  Have they heard of this store name?  Is the store’s address real?  Does it have the brand name or showroom that it claims?  Do they know of anyone who has shopped at this store?  Feedback from trustworthy people in the area can make all the difference.  You don’t want to end up in a situation where you, as the buyer, has to try and track down the seller because the item you ordered never arrived.
14. One common trick used by fraudulent sellers is to blame the postal/currier service for the “misplacement” of your order, or even go so far as to blame the vendor for sending them defective merchandise, which of course they cannot send to you.  Sometimes fraudulent sellers even claim to be the manufacturers of their products, but then later, after you “buy” something from them, they claim that the vendor is responsible for the “missing” purchased item(s).  Unfortunately, when it comes to online shopping, there is no opportunity to look a business owner/ seller in the eye to see if they are lying to you.  It is very important to be extra vigilant when shopping from new/unknown online sellers.
15. Remember: If it looks too good to be true, it is.  Yes, there are some great bargains to be found while shopping online, but the old adage still stands true.  One thing to watch out for is if a site asks you to register BEFORE you can add items to a wishlist or shopping cart.  It is very likely that the site is just there to get your email address.  Ask yourself: Do they just want my address so they can sell it to spammers?
16. There are many online shoppers who have learned the bitter truth about purchasing items based on price alone.  Are you willing to risk buying items “critical” to your image or self-esteem based upon their below-market-price and compromising the safety of your financial information?  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there never will be.  Be aware that if you fall for the ever-so-tempting-cheapest-price trap, you will end up paying for it one way or another.
17. If you do happen to receive a shipment from these fly-by-night sellers, be aware that these problems may arise: the quality of a garment by be questionable, an alternate item may have been shipped without your approval, there may be hidden costs which you will be unknowingly billed for, the color of your garment may come out the first time you wash it, the fabric may shrink, or the size of the product may be too short to too long compared to what it should be.  Be wary of online stores where no kind of online chat or messaging is available (such as msn/yahoo or live help).  When you see really cheap prices, don’t think “Yay!” think desperation.
18. It is a real crap shoot as to how long such businesses are going to be around with the support, products, or services that they want to sell you.  A good idea is to check out the newbie store’s New Arrival section.  Do they actually show new product, or just pretty photos from a 2005 collection?  Is their fashion fresh or stale?  Remember, the status of their New Arrival pages says volumes about their other sections.  Also, make sure to beware of sellers that push overstock, unsold, or out-of-fashion items.
19. There is a saying in India: If something goes out of fashion in India, it can easily be sold to NRI’s and foreigners.
20. It’s wise to ask yourself these questions before making online purchases from a new store: Does this newbie store seem to cut corners in order to sustain their low prices or discounts?  Are they compromising in their product and service quality?  Is there a catch?
21. Be wary of buying from websites which either look unprofessional or seem lacking in important information when compared to known legitimate and trustworthy websites.  One thing about buying on the Internet is that you are not able to determine the quality of a product until after you receive it.  Be very careful when dealing with newbie stores.
22. Sellers who have low prices know what their products and services are worth.  All things considered, it’s safer to buy cheap products from an offline vendor, but when you are online, make TRUST your highest shopping priority, not cheap prices (or anything else).  Have you ever heard of the number of online stores which were abandoned by shoppers because no one from the sites were responding to phone calls or emails?  Or even of the number of scam sellers who have disappeared off the face of the earth (or gone to jail)? There are many!
23. Sometimes, sellers do not intend to be fraudulent.  Sometimes a person may have a good idea and quickly patch together their site, only to discover a few months down the road that it’s not such a good idea after all.  Then they quit the business, but leave any gullible customers that they did have in the lurch.  Don’t forget to question your instincts when shopping online.  Do you have a good feeling about a certain store? Trust your gut.
24. If you begin to have second thoughts about a dubious merchant, if their website appears to be suspicious, or if their offers seem too good to be true, go ahead and trust your instincts.  Ask yourself: is this newbie store customer oriented? Does this company seem to know what they are doing?  Using your common sense makes it easy to get a feel for any quick warning signs that pop up.  Above all, protect your personal information-it is a valuable commodity.
25. Make sure to only share your personal and payment information with online companies that you know and trust, otherwise you may be ripped off by a copycat webstore which offers 25% off of the fair-market-rates that legitimate online stores charge.  Copycat stores may also offer free stitching or free shipping for all of their products.  Watch out!
26. Do you really know who is on the other side of a phone call or email chat?  Are they real professionals?  If a newbie store claims to have a showroom or manufacturing facility, don’t just call, ask, and take their word for it.  Instead call and ask for specific directions to their facility.  Even if you don’t live nearby, you can verify directions/street names/ building locations through online map and street view sites.
27. All things considered, it’s just better to stay away from unknown sites and shop on sites that you trust.  The truth is that many of these newbie, garage-based-sellers have never even seen (or inspected) many of the products that they claim to stock/sell.  They are simply “doing business” at your cost.
28. In all reality, it is extremely difficult for a one-person, part-time operation to adequately service the expectations of international customers, so why take the chance?  Beware of websites which seem to come from nowhere, yet claim to have been in business for the last 25 years-caution is warranted.  Whatever you do, stay away from shady websites that “need” you to install their software in order to view their site/see their products.  You will probably end up installing malware.
29. Beware of websites that claim to sell authentic, pure silk, as there is no way to tell whether their claims are truthful.  Shady sites that offer lots of freebies are not always what they appear to be.  Would you buy curd from a hawker who comes to your doorstep-even if it’s for free?  Beware of newbie sellers from outside the EU and North America, unless they are already established brand names.  Remember, you may have a limited recourse in the case that the goods you ordered are never delivered.
30. There are some scam artists that try to trick you by attempting to represent a reputed brand/designer name company that they do not actually own.  Before buying from a webstore that you have never heard of before, talk to your friends and relatives to see what they think.  Play it safe when it comes to buying from an online store which seems to “over-do” their selling pitch.
31. There is never any reason to provide your social security or driver’s license number to an online seller.  Before giving out any credit card information on a new website, be extra sure that you are not acting in haste out of greed for their low prices.  It’s possible that they may ship/fulfill a small order to you to gain your trust, but then they could trap you into placing larger orders (spending more money) which they will never intend to supply to you.  Take the time to do your homework and be sure that you are purchasing from a reputable source.
32. Try and locate a physical address for the online store, and beware if all you can find is a post office box number.  Beware of sellers that use free email accounts-where a credit card is not required to open the account.  It also couldn’t hurt to check with the Better Business Bureau branch in the seller’s area.  Be very cautious about opening or responding to unsolicited emails.
33. Be wary of fraudulent websites that are blatant copycats of legitimate ones, irrespective of the copyright and trademark protection that the legitimate one has rights to.  Ask for names and phone numbers of the courier companies in your area that the seller has used in the past.  If the seller indicates that they use a specific company for shipping, call up that company-even if it is international-long-distance-to confirm that the courier company does legitimate business with the sender.  Do this BEFORE you send any money!  Use common sense.
34. This seems obvious, but people don’t always do it.  The use of common sense will help you to avoid imitation websites with fraudulent listings, claims, suspicious offers, and misleading statements.  Furthermore, if you have a gut feeling that something about the site is not legitimate, you are probably right!  ALWAYS ask for references and check them carefully.  A reputable company will be happy to provide you with plenty of references.  Use good judgement, be careful, follow these tips, and you should not have any brush-in’s with fraudulent online companies.
35. Beware of websites (other than those of established companies) that have been known by several other names and functions in the past.  Chances are that they will be known by a different name and function in the near future.  Please use common sense and caution before giving out your email address, and certainly before you disclose your credit card information.  Remember, websites that show-off all the bells and whistles are not necessarily genuine.  What you see on the surface might be different than what’s on the inside.
36. Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Please watch out for websites that offer greatly reduced prices.  Never respond to unsolicited email offers.  Sometimes, former employees (who may have been fired) of a legitimate webstore may approach you and offer to sell the webstore’s products at greatly reduced prices.  Run away from them as fast as you can and call the seller to report the incident.  Beware of sellers who only list an email address or who give a local phone number that is disconnected, or actually contacts a church or separate business that has no connection to product on the seller’s site.
37. Try to obtain a physical address (not a post office box) and a legitimate phone number.  Find out if the seller is a member of any trade associations or certifying agency, or even registered with any kind of government authority.  Also, beware of websites that are designed with the purpose of just getting you to click their “Buy Now” button.  If you feel pressured to buy, the best thing to do is get off of that website.   
38. Beware of copycats, who take advantage of shoppers’ needs to get the best bargains.  Over the last 10 years, because our company has been a leader in the women’s Indian fashion arena, many copycat firms and companies have tried to imitate our look in order to convince potential and loyal clients that their scammy sites can provide customers with the same time-tested products and services which have made our company so popular.  But the similarities run only skin-deep!
39. Many of our customers have approached us during the last 6-9 months, asking if such-and-such website belonged to us because it looked like it should.  They were smart to double check!  Unfortunately, Internet shoppers are relatively easy prey for such deceptive copycat sites.  Most copycat firms are brand-new and are created with the intention of getting into and learning about the fashion retail business, and they hope to be able to get started on your dime.  Unless you are okay with being someone else’s guinea pig, avoid sites that are crude copies of the original.
40. To tell the truth, there are a few copycats out there that have created sites which look similar to ours, but do not be fooled.  All legitimate websites that we own have our brand name in plain sight.  Also, if any site claims to be a product supplier to our company, or even a vendor of our products, please double check with us before releasing any information or engaging in any sales with them.
41. As an online shopper, don’t let the wool get pulled over your eyes.  Protect yourself by being aware that these copycats have been ripping off our site design, product photos, content, (trying to give their site the same look and feel as ours), and even copying our exact Terms and Conditions and Disclaimers!  This “cut and paste” thievery means that some of their pages still have links to our authentic images and webpages.  You’d think that if a person worked so hard to “steal our site” that they would not be so clumsy about it-not even taking the time to change a few words here and there to really “make it their own.”  They must be really desperate, and dumb.  We can’t believe how many people think that copying our strategies, designs, and content will give them instant success in their “business.”  It’s amazing how some people think that by simply stealing someone else’s website design and product images they will be able to have a good site.
42. But things don’t work that way!  It’s true that sometimes it can feel good to have people appreciate and admire your work so much that they want to use it for themselves, but this is a double-edged sword.  People who visit and like the copycat website first, may in turn think that OUR site is the copycat, which puts our established company at risk for being labeled “fraudulent” or “copycat.”  We are ever thankful to our concerned customers and visitors, who take the time to get in touch with us (by email or phone) to double check that we are indeed the original website.  Even though this act does not really affect us as a company, we are sorry for the bad taste that it leaves in the mouth of the gullible customers who didn’t take time to check things out.  Getting ripped off is a frustrating, and even embarrassing, thing, and our sympathies go out to all online shoppers who have fallen into this trap.
43. Thankfully, savvy shoppers have taken measures to be able to recognize the difference between an original site and a copycat.  One measure we take to help our customers recognize us as the original webstore is to continually update our site with fresh fashions.  These leaves the copycats, who stole our photos of “older product” desperate to get rid of their stale stock by going into a perpetual “sale mode.”  Another consideration that these copycats seem to miss is that, even though they steal our look, designs, and photos, they cannot imitate the quality of our products and services nor our devotion to our customers.  It’s like, when someone copies a photo, the quality of the photo does not suffer, but when someone tries to recreate the garment pictured in the photo, then things get messy. 
44. Because we care about our customers and visitors, we have tried our best to give you advice on how to stay safe in your online shopping.  However, sometimes people are just not willing to take advice.  So, we suggest that you go ahead and shop at one of these copycat sites and find out for yourself why it’s a mistake.  And please don’t forget to share your experience with everyone you know, so that they might take you word for it, and not fall into the same snares.
45. Online scammers can fool some people some of the time, but not all people all of the time-which category will you be in? a. Note:  We have nothing against home/garage based stores (you have to start somewhere), because it is the level of service and quality of products that matters, not necessarily the location that they operate from.  We wish that all online stores, especially those in the fashion industry, were run by people that value the characteristics of honesty, experience, attention to detail, integrity, and service.