The holiday season is prime time for scammers. People are in a rush, looking for deals and trying to find exactly what they want, which leads to careless decisions.
Christmas lights are already going up, and you can hear holiday tunes everywhere. If you want to shop for decorations online, be careful! Scammers are out in full force with fake ads and shoddy merchandise. Tap or click here for holiday decoration scams to watch out for.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are big for shoppers and, surprise, surprise, enormous opportunities for crooks. One major scam involves fake online storefronts. Read on for details and how to stay safe.
The holiday rush
Are you looking for that perfect gift at the best price? So are countless others — and scammers know this. While 40% off may be a good deal, what’s the deal with 80% off? It can’t be true, can it?
AutoGuide and RedFlagDeals uncovered a rash of scams on Amazon involving last-minute sellers popping up with excellent deals during the holiday rush. The listings are for legitimate products, but the prices are so low that they should immediately raise suspicion.
Compounding all this are Amazon’s algorithms, which recommend products and sellers, pushing these fake stores and listings to consumers. The crooks can rake in big money before Amazon figures it out and drops a ban. And as soon as one disappears, another one pops up.
How the grift works
Scammers list popular products made by well-known brands. They set the prices very low and create fake positive reviews. They’ll also list hundreds of other items to add legitimacy, which won’t be so heavily discounted. This is another tactic to throw you off.
If you purchase something, you’ll get phony tracking details and order numbers to stall you before you realize something is wrong and file a complaint. You’ll also be delayed by the one-week free shipping time.
Ultimately, you either get the wrong product, a knockoff, a damaged item, or nothing. And since the seller will be gone by then, you can’t request a refund or support.
It’s hard to single out these sellers, as they usually only last a few hours. So how can you spot the scams?
How to avoid getting ripped off
There’s an adage: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t jump at any great deal that comes along. Take a deep breath and use your best judgment and common sense.
Here are some more ways to beef up your scam-spotting skills:
- Check the seller’s name. Is it a string of letters forming a nonsensical name? Don’t buy from them.
- Look under the cart and buy buttons for the Ships from/sold by information. If it isn’t shipped and/or sold by the product brand or Amazon itself, it’s a third-party seller. Open the seller page. If it’s blank or full of more nonsense, click away.
- Check the seller’s page for feedback. If reviews go back more than a year, it’s probably safe to buy. If the only reviews are very recent, stay away.
- Check the reviews themselves for poor spelling and grammar, over-the-top praise or descriptions that don’t match the listing.
- If many reviews for a product were submitted within a short window of time, they might be part of a seller’s campaign to improve their numbers with false ratings.
- Overly negative reviews could also potentially be fake, too. This is a tactic that scammers use to sabotage other sellers.
Even with these tips, spotting every scam can still be hard. Fortunately, there are a few services that can help to sniff out the imposters.
Fakespot is a free Chrome extension that detects fake reviews and alerts you of suspicious sellers. You can use it to shop on Amazon and other retail sites. It’s free and easy to use.
- Go to fakespot.com and you’ll see a button labeled Add to Chrome.
- To the right is a dropdown menu labeled Fakespot is also available on. Select it to find links for Firefox and Safari.
- The service is also available as a free app for iOS and Android:
Set up the extension in your browser. A walkthrough is provided to guide you through this process.
When browsing products, you’ll see an alert from Fakespot listing the number of highlights it found. This could reference anything from a bad seller to a reasonable price or a better product elsewhere.
ReviewMeta has its own approach to weed out fake reviews. It acts as a filter that eliminates the chaff from the wheat regarding reviews, leaving a stripped-down rating. This tool provides an estimate to help you make the right decisions, but nothing is foolproof.
- Go to reviewmeta.com, and choose your browser icon (Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Safari) to install the extension.
- ReviewMeta is also available as a free app for iOS and Android:
Once the installation is complete, open Amazon and click on the ReviewMeta icon in the upper-right corner. You can also go to reviewmeta.com and paste an Amazon product page URL in the empty field on top and click Go.