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Don't let phony sites and apps ruin your holiday

posted Dec 11, 2016, 2:30 PM by Resty Manapat

This holiday season; don't be tempted by too-good-to-be-true prices when shopping online. Many of these deals are scams, stealing both money and personal information from victims.

How the Scam Works: 

With a long shopping list this holiday season, you are trying to save money by finding good deals online. 

A web search, social media post, maybe even a fake retail app leads you to a site that appears to sell high-priced items – such as designer clothing or electronics – at a steep discount. 

The deals are amazing. For example, one scam website offers $400 designer handbags for $49. The website looks real: it has the company logo, photos of products, and even uses the brand name in the URL. 

No matter how good the deals seem, don't fall for it! In the best-case scenario, you will be purchasing counterfeit goods. 

However, some shopping scam victims report unauthorized charges on their credit cards after purchase. 

And as always, sharing personal information with scammers opens you up to the risk of identity fraud. 

How to Spot a Fake Website 

Don't believe what you see: The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate retailer, but that can be easily copied from the real website. 

  • Be suspicious of deeply discounted prices. The old saying still holds true - if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. Buy online from authorized retailers with well-known reputations or from websites which have been personally recommended to you.
  • Don't automatically assume that if a site appears high up in a web search, it is genuine. Fraudsters can use advertising space or sponsored links to appear high up and therefore seem most relevant.
  • Try to check for reviews and comments from other users. Try and search for the website name to see whether anyone else has been stung before.
  • Check for the correct URL of an online brand in the web browser. A tactic often used by fraudsters is to change the address very slightly to include the brand or product name.
  • Watch out for poor English such as typo and grammar mistakes, or phrases that don't sound quite right. It could mean the site isn't genuine and was put together by someone abroad looking to make a quick profit.
  • Always look for websites that have a secure way of paying. Make sure that the web address of the page starts https:// before you enter any personal information or payment details. The “s” stands for “secure”. There should also be a small padlock that appears in the bottom of your screen which will mean the site is safe.
  • Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully before buying a product, particularly those relating to getting a refund or disputing a product. These can often give a clue as to whether a product is genuine or not.
  • You should never be asked to tell anyone your card's PIN number - even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. Never send your PIN number to anyone over the internet.
  • If you have found a product online, such as hair straighteners, and you're not sure if they are legitimate, make sure you check the website for a full UK or European postal address and a working telephone number. A lot of counterfeiters come from Asia and the Far East so the chances are they could be fake. Also, a website address ending in .co.uk does not necessarily mean the site is based in the UK, so this should be treated with caution.
  • Some genuine brand names have pages dedicated to anti-counterfeiting information that list authorized retailers online and on the high street. They also have information on how to spot a fake, and a website checker to verify that the web address of a site links through to a registered retailer.
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