Security Corner

Jul 30 2010   11:07PM GMT

How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams – Part 1

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun


[What follows–in two parts–is a heavily-edited article whose original version is posted at if you want to read it. I had to edit the article heavily because its English is quite fractured. In that source posting, there appears to be tacit consent to reprinting with attribution. The writer(s) posted this in the comments section of “How to Recognize and Avoid Email Scams – Part 3,” but it’s worthy of a post of its own.]

With the rapid development of e-commerce, Internet scams have become more and more prevalent. According to a report by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) , phishing caused losses of 265 million dollars in 2008 and more than doubled to 560 million dollars in 2009.  Since 2004, [the writers of this report] have engaged in e-commerce and have struggled with a variety of scams. Consequently we have accumulated rich experience in scam prevention.  We believe that the following 10 unique anti-scam prevention skills, leave the scammers nowhere to hide.

1. Check Domain registrar information–As we all know, great companies tend to survive; longevity is often a key to trustworthiness. You can get all of the information you need here:, including age, registered name and business address.  The longer the site has been registered and the more detailed the registrar information, the higher credibility the site has.

2. Check whether they have business in authoritative third-party trading platform–In general, a good merchant will use authoritative third party trading platform selling products, in order to improve their market share, at the same this is a symbol of strength. Common third-party trading platform are Alibaba, eBay, Amazon, etc. These third-party trading platforms are transparent and fair. In particular, the credibility of their evaluation system is perfect. You can obtain more objective information from them.

3. Check whether they pass the third-party network security certification–McAfee and Versign are the world’s most authoritative network security certification. Fortune 500 companies usually pass their certification. Their certifications have strict business identity confirmation systems and they frequently perform site scans to ensure that the site is free of trojan horses, viruses, spyware and other threats. If a site does not have such certification, please be careful when purchasing products from them. (Note: Many sites just hang a symbol, yet have not been authenticated. You should be especially careful about these sites.)

4. Check whether there exists a price trap–Online shopping scams often rely on prices that are incredibly far below market price, producing an impulse to buy immediately. At this moment, remember to be calm, extremely low price for a brand name product probably means the product is defective, an imitation, refurbished, etc. Sometimes it’s just an outright theft and you’ll never see the product. Of course, sometimes an honest merchant may offer clearance, discounts, payment coupons, so please check the site by other methods, too.

5. Check whether they support PayPal payments–PayPal provides good buyer protection. If a customer does not receive goods or received goods do not match the description, he can initiate a dispute within 45 days and get full unconditional refund. Moreover, frequent complaints by customers about merchants who sell a large number of fake or shoddy products will result in suspension of the scammer’s PayPal account.

I’ll continue this post in Part 2 and wrap it up.

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