Are you in the midst of holiday shopping, looking for the best deals, trying to buy perfect gifts for your whānau?
Here at the Domain Name Commission, we definitely are. And often we shop online because it’s faster, more convenient, and sometimes cheaper.
It can be so cheap, it gets suspicious, though. Teaming up with the Research team at InternetNZ, we’ve detected 999 fake webshops since July 2019. That’s a lot of online stores that take the money and never deliver the goods.
Learn how to shop safe online this holiday season — check our 12 shopping tips.
1. Know the top 3 fake webshop offers!
The main focus of fake webshops is to sell attractive goods, with a majority aiming for sporting goods of well-known brands (for example Adidas, Nike, Asics), followed by boots like Ugg and sunglasses. So if you are after a pair of new running shoes, beware!
2. Is the offer too good to be true?
If everything on the website unnaturally screams that it's 'best,’ 'top brand,’ 'luxury,’ it might be fake. Trust your gut feeling — if the wording is pompous or too cliche, maybe don't buy here.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much technical know-how to spot a scam. Unbelievably large discounts, promotions that guarantee large prizes, free gifts, and delivery, testimonials that look too good to be real are all warning signs.
3. What are the payment options?
Can you clearly understand what currency is used on the website? If not, the online store could be unreliable.
If you see multiple payment options (e.g. as payment systems logos), but only one is available during checkout, it is a warning sign.
4. Check the photographs!
Check images on the website – are they good quality, consistent in style photographs? Or, do they look like they don’t belong together, or low-quality pictures with photo stock watermarks on them? If the latter, the store is probably not good to trust with your credit card details.
5. Check the website content.
We all make occasional spelling mistakes and typos. But scam sites often have way too many.
Inconsistent fonts and bolding, long page titles listing a series of luxury brands are also indicating something is wrong with the webshop.
If it looks like someone copied and pasted bits and pieces of content and product descriptions from all over the Internet, or the content looks like its main creator is Google.Translate, don’t buy there.
6. What if you don’t like your purchase, can you return it?
Is there a returns policy on the website? Is it in plain English and says clearly what to do to return your purchase? Is it clear where the business is located? Is it in New Zealand or overseas? Can you understand where your parcel comes from? Is it clear who pays postage for returns?
7. Check the domain name.
You can see the domain name by checking the address bar at the top of your browser. If the text in the address bar doesn’t seem to match the content of the website, the site may not be legitimate.
If it’s a domain name that ends in .nz, you can find out who the domain name holder is by doing a registration data query at the DNC website. Check who’s listed in the Registrant Name field. If the domain name ends in .com, you can use ICANN’s WHOIS service.
Have a closer look at the registration info: are there any discrepancies? For example, fake webshop’s owners might list their home address in Timbuktu, Australia. Or they can use obviously fake names, e.g. Admin Admin. Fake registration details are signalling that the webshop is not to be trusted.
8. Check for scam reports and customers reviews
If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of an online business, search the name of the website or business with the terms “scam” or “review” after it. Chances are, if the site is a scam, others have already been burned and may have posted reviews online.
9. Where is the business located?
Legitimate businesses can be located in New Zealand or overseas, and they clearly state it on their websites. If there is no physical address, and you can’t find where the business is located, consider leaving the website without a purchase.
10. Does the site's domain name match the goods?
If the site's domain name address says 'boats' and it sells make-up, the webshop is possibly fake. That’s because 80% of fake webshops detected by our algorithm are using domains that expired and were re-registered by the counterfeiters.
11. Check the contact email of the webshop.
Does a business have a professional email rather than a free one at Gmail, Yahoo, etc.? Also, fake webshops often have random strings of letters and numbers as their email addresses with free email services. If the address looks dodgy, don’t shop there.
12. What to do if you are scammed.
If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, report it to the police who can investigate and, where appropriate, refer you to other agencies who may be able to help in this type of situation.
We set up a fake webshop, so you can try to identify the most common warning signs of scam websites. Check it out, share it with friends and family, and shop safe this holiday season!