If you’re a 20-something millennial who has never shopped online, wow, you’re a rare breed. Online shopping is so common nowadays because 1) we are too busy hustling to visit brick-and-mortar stores regularly, 2) it’s so convenient to have things delivered to your doorstep, and 3) you can get items from foreign websites or that are otherwise not available in Singapore. Of course, it helps that sometimes, the items are cheaper online too.
With the popularity of online shopping, scammers have taken the opportunity to cheat shoppers of their money in various ways, from fake ads to fake lucky draws.
The Straits Times reported that the Singapore Police Force released a statement yesterday, stating that they are investigating 278 scam cases, and most of those involved online purchases.
Between January and September, 192 cases of scams were reported, involving fake lucky draws purportedly run by online shopping sites Lazada and Shopee. Victims were cheated of at least $194,000.
But with such ads looking so legitimate, how can one tell the difference when all you want is a good deal?
Pamela Ong, Head of Sales at cybersecurity solutions provider ESET, dishes some tips. Scroll through the gallery to start shopping safely.
Check the domain name
You gotta be more alert while reading the domain name. At a glance, it might seem legit, but look out for spelling errors and other signs. Pamela says, “Referring to the two fake, yet realistic looking, ads below, one would realise that the domain names are intended to confuse you with those of popular e-commerce sites, with very minor discrepancies—for example, stating amazonnet.com or amaz0n.com to imitate amazon.com).”
Do a quick background search
Don’t be too quick to click on the most clickbaity ad you see. “If you come across an ad with an unfamiliar domain name, that’s usually a tell-tale sign of its illegitimacy. Do a separate search on the domain name to ascertain whether it is a legitimate e-tailer.”
Look out for the small things
When you’re on the site, be equally vigilant to spot signs that it could be a phishing website. Pamela says, “While fake ads are becoming more sophisticated, keeping an eye out for typos or slight variations in product names can be a quick way determine if the ad is legitimate or fake.”
Question lack of information
If the ad asks for your email address in order to secure a deal or discount code, be careful. “Scam ads are often deliberately vague to entice shoppers to click on links or share their email for further details. It is best to stay away from ads that seem to lack important details or require you to share your personal information for additional benefits.”
Trust your instincts
At the end of the day, it’s about trusting your instincts. “If an ad seems suspicious in any way or a deal seems too good to be true, trust your instincts. Don’t click on the ad or share any personal details. It is not worth jeopardising your personal information and peace of mind over a discount, no matter how attractive it may seem.” Which means, if a website claims to be selling a brand new authentic Hermes Birkin for $100, GTFO of there.
Buy yourself time by writing to customer service
Pamela suggests contacting the customer service before making the purchase. “If the ad takes you to legitimate-looking site, look for a customer service contact and email them with questions about the product you’re interested in. Your exchange with the customer service team would also show signs of the e-tailers credibility. Customer service representatives of credible e-tailers aim to respond to you within three working days, addressing your questions, with an email address or number to contact should you have further questions. However, if a customer service representative responds with emails in poor grammar, without answering your questions or offering contact information, it could be a sign of a bot posing as a customer service representative.” Remember: scammers thrive on impulse buyers who check out within minutes, so don’t be too quick to jump on a “good deal”.