7 Tips to Spot Scam Products When Shopping Online (2023)

From the comfort of your room, you can buy a jumpsuit or a smartphone from a store that is halfway across the world. Press a few buttons and you can get it delivered to your doorstep.

Unfortunately, this comfort comes with a lot of risks. Among the thousands of legitimate products you'll find at an online retail store, tucked somewhere in between are scam products. And it's easy to fall prey.

Here are some great tips to tell scam products from legit ones when shopping online.

1. Research the Product Name

The easiest way to spot a fake product is through an old-fashioned Google search. If someone has had an unfavourable experience with a product and wrote about it, there's a good chance Google has picked it up.

Look up the product title and then repeat with different variations of the name. If no information comes up about a product, it's not a good sign. It could mean it's unheard of or goes by a made-up name.

When looking up the product on a search engine, type the name alongside that of the vendor. This will help search engines narrow down your search to that store. A legitimate product name could be used to market a fake product. However, if the vendor has a history of scams, adding the vendor's name should make things much clearer.

2. Do a Reverse Image Search

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More often than not, when vendors put up a nonexistent or fake item for sale, they use stock images or an image from another vendor as the product's image. Doing a reverse image search will expose this.

If you think a product on an eCommerce platform is suspicious, there are two ways to check. The first is through uploading the photo or a screenshot of the item into images.google.com. Click on the camera icon on the right side of the search bar. When a file upload prompt comes up, upload your image to initiate a search.

Or if you use Chrome, right-click on the picture then click Search Google for image.

If Google locates other copies of the image on a stock image site or another eCommerce platform, that's a red flag. However, that's not conclusive evidence, so you'll need to investigate further. Wholesale brands sometimes provide images to retailers to use for marketing. Nonetheless, always treat lifted images with suspicion.

If you're visiting images.google.com from your phone browser, you'll need to switch to desktop mode to be able to see the camera icon that triggers an upload prompt.

If the vendor uses a product video instead of an image, it's not the end of the road. Take multiple screenshots of scenes from the video and run a reverse image search. You should find other instances if it has already been used online.

Berify, TinyEye, and prepostseo are specialized alternatives to Google's image search.

3. Scrutinize the Product's Review

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Reviews hold a lot of weight in deciding whether or not to buy a product. Retailers know this. That's why they invest a lot of time and money to ensure the reviews of their product are positive whether or not it's legit or a scam.

To tell scam products from real ones, you'll need to unlearn and relearn how you read reviews. Never trust the overall rating. Ratings can be manipulated by brands to promote their product.

When reading reviews, look out for black and white opinions. Real reviews will typically have mixed opinions: they'll include the good with the bad. A review that appears to only sing the praises of a product is probably fake.

Similarly, watch out for superficial reviews that lack details or depth. Genuine reviewers might describe a specific experience they had while using a product. Their review should be able to demonstrate some considerable knowledge from first-hand experience.

Related: Why You Can't Trust Online Reviews—What Is a Click Farm?

Be wary of reviews that are full of marketing words. Look out for strongly worded descriptions. A review for a modem that has descriptors like "super explosive speed," "out-of-this-world lightning speed," or "unparalleled data transmission speed" has a high chance of being fake.

Average customers simply do not use those kinds of wordings in their review, regardless of how much they like a product.

If too many reviews are showing red flags, the product is probably fake or not as good as advertised.

4. Look out for Suspicious Warranty and Return Policies

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Another telltale sign of a scam-in-progress is a suspicious warranty and returns policy. If a product goes for more than a few hundred dollars but comes with a short warranty, exercise caution. Products with a big price tag should come with a longer warranty period than a couple of weeks!

Similarly, fake products also come with a sketchy returns policy. Vendors selling fake products typically impose a few days' return window for defective products. Others will demand you pay for the product to be shipped backed to them, and in a lot of cases, to an overseas address.

A warranty or return policy that isn't compliant with industry standards for a particular product is usually signs of foul play—definitely avoid it.

5. Be Wary of Ridiculous Prices

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As a rule of thumb, if a price is too good to be true, it usually is. A Rolex going for $50 has "fraud" written all over it. Even when prices are labelled as "discounted," ridiculous deals on scarce luxury goods is a huge warning sign.

The best-case scenario is that you get delivered a counterfeit. In other cases, the product never comes. Don't be baited by cheap prices.

6. Pay Attention to the Product Description

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Sometimes, fraudulent vendors hide their scams in plain sight. To avoid the sledgehammer of the eCommerce platform they use, they tactfully include the "real description" of the product they are selling amidst a flurry of irrelevant information.

You could see a smartphone as a product image, but what is being sold could be smartphone casings or other components. To further mislead potential buyers, the vendors typically increase their prices to be close enough to that of the product you think it is, but low enough to bait you into paying for it.

Take some time to read the detailed product description to ensure an item is what you think it is.

Also, some fake products come with grammatical blunders. Louis Vuitton could be spelt as Vitton and Versace as Vasache or any other variation. Original brands will not make such cheap mistakes.

In some cases, these misspellings aren't exactly mistakes. They can be intentional and are usually a way for malicious vendors to protect themselves when a dispute arises. They'll claim they advertised "Vitton" and not "Louis Vuitton" in order to invalidate a consumer's claim of being sold a fake.

7. Look Up the Vendor

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A malicious vendor will almost certainly be selling fakes. It's either that or they'll take your money while you endure an endless wait for your product. Either way, spotting a fake vendor will help you avoid the scam products they offer for sale.

A popular way to spot a fake store is to check which country they ship from. Countries like China and Malaysia make a lot of good quality products. Unfortunately, they're also responsible for a bulk of the fakes in circulation globally.

According to a European Union report, 72 percent of fake goods circulating in the US, Japan, and the EU are shipped from China. While it'd be unwise to outrightly blacklist anywhere shipping from China, you should exercise more caution when dealing with them.

Related: Ways to Spot a Fake Retail Website

Apart from the location of the seller, look up the vendor online to see if they're flagged as a scam by any site. Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot are two useful websites to check the reliability of a brand. And Google search can unearth a lot of information.

Stay Suspicious Until Your Goods Arrive

Irrespective of where you are shopping from online, always maintain a healthy level of suspicion until your goods arrive at your doorstep. Make sure the products you want to buy and their vendors tick all the right boxes.

Online vendors enjoy a considerable level of anonymity. This makes it hard to get a refund when the need arrives. Don't put yourself in such a position. Stay safe by being alert and suspicious.


How can you spot a fake shopping website? ›

Here Are 6 Steps To Spot a Fake Online Store
  1. Scrutinize the URL. Some fraudulent sites have URLs that look just like those of legitimate websites — at first glance. ...
  2. Click on the Padlock Icon in the Address Bar. ...
  3. Use a Website Checker. ...
  4. Rely on Your Browser. ...
  5. Look for a Trust Seal. ...
  6. Read the Reviews.
22 Sept 2022

How do you know if a product is legit? ›

Go through these telltale signs that can help you identify an original from a counterfeit, and make sure you are not taken for a ride.
  1. Unreal discounts. ...
  2. Flimsy packaging. ...
  3. Grammatical & spelling mistakes. ...
  4. Fake websites. ...
  5. Poor quality of products. ...
  6. Omissions & mismatch. ...
  7. Flawed fonts, logos. ...
  8. No contact details.
3 Jul 2017

What helps to indicate that an online shop is legitimate? ›

8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit
  • Use the free McAfee WebAdvisor to check for safe sites. ...
  • Check the padlock in the address bar. ...
  • Verify the website's trust seal. ...
  • Use the Google Transparency Report. ...
  • Check the company's social media presence. ...
  • Analyze the overall look of the website.
8 Jun 2022

How can I check a website is safe? ›

Use a website safety checker

To find out if a link is safe, just copy/paste the URL into the search box and hit Enter. Google Safe Browsing's URL checker will test the link and report back on the site's legitimacy and reputation in just seconds. It's that easy to use Google's URL scanner.

How do you authenticate an online store? ›

A legitimate store will have contact details on its site. If it is just a web contact form, without an address, email, and phone number you should probably be wary. All genuine online stores will be happy to help with any query you have so, if you are buying for the first time, do get in touch to see if they are real.

How can you tell if online products are fake? ›

In this blog, we'll explain how to spot counterfeit goods online by looking out for the following:
  • Prices that are too good to be true. ...
  • An untrusted and/or dubious website. ...
  • Customer reviews and seller profiles. ...
  • Country. ...
  • Imagery. ...
  • Item description. ...
  • Conclusion.

How do I verify a product by barcode? ›

To ensure authenticity and to prevent duplicate UPC barcodes from being assigned, the data in a UPC barcode must contain a UPC (GS1) Company Prefix issued by GS1 to a specific brand, an Item Reference Number assigned by the brand owner, and a Check Digit which is mathematically calculated.

Can barcodes be faked? ›

Sometimes, we can be faced with a fake EAN barcode without knowing it. Whether due to an error or fraud, it is possible that it reaches our hands because it is purchased or is already printed on the product.

How can I buy something online without getting scammed? ›

7 Tips to Avoid Online Shopping Scams
  1. Watch out for the 'Too Good To Be True' Scam. ...
  2. Consider using a credit card instead of a debit card. ...
  3. Check out as a guest when possible. ...
  4. Don't use the same password for every account. ...
  5. Research new and sketchy websites. ...
  6. Monitor your accounts using automatic alerts.

How can I protect myself when shopping online? ›

7 tips to protect yourself while online shopping
  1. Shop from secure websites only. ...
  2. Create a unique username and password for each account you have. ...
  3. Never provide your social security number. ...
  4. Never click on links or images within a promotional email. ...
  5. Never use free Wi-Fi at public places when online shopping.

Can the police track a scammer? ›

While agencies can't always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Do banks refund scammed money? ›

Contact your bank immediately to let them know what's happened and ask if you can get a refund. Most banks should reimburse you if you've transferred money to someone because of a scam.

How do you identify a suspicious link? ›

Things That May Signal a Phishing Link
  1. It links to a suspicious root domain.
  2. The link is masked by a link shortener.
  3. You didn't ask for it, it found you.
  4. It's from someone you don't know.
  5. It links directly or redirects to a file rather than a web page.
20 Sept 2021

How can you tell if a website is malicious? ›

URLVoid is a service that can gauge a website or link's online reputation and website safety, detect any fraudulent or malicious behavior, and identify if its ever been involved in a malware or phishing incident. To do this, URLVoid filters links through over 30 blacklist engines and online website reputation services.

Does a padlock mean a website is safe? ›

When you go to a site that has a padlock icon next to the site name, it means the site is secured with a digital certificate. This means that any information sent between your browser and the website is sent securely, and can't be intercepted and read by someone else while the information is in transit.

Is it safe to shop online with a credit card? ›

Is paying online with my card safe? Yes, paying online is considered safe. Using a credit card is much safer than using a debit card, however. To reiterate, if you lose your card or someone steals it, you only pay $50 in liability fees.

What are the steps in buying products online? ›

Loved by our community
  1. First of all, get the product you want to buy.
  2. Click that product. Down, there will be two options—Add to Cart and Buy Now.
  3. Sign In. Sign up if you don't have a Flipkart account. ...
  4. Enter your email address, home address, mobile number and other details.
  5. Then comes Payment Option.
4 Feb 2021

How can you tell fake packaging? ›

3) Packaging

Similarly, be wary of packaging which features expired “use by' dates, has broken or missing safety seals, or is lacking warranty information or producer contact details. Spelling errors, flawed logos or trademarks are further indicators that an item is a fake.

Are there fake products on Amazon? ›

Amazon keeps around 15 percent of any sale made by a third-party seller, so, while they do make efforts to ensure the authenticity of goods or follow the negative review trail, they allow anything and everything to go up on sale in the first place.

How can you tell if a brand of clothing is original? ›

Tips for spotting genuine designer clothing | Fake Britain - BBC

How can I tell if a barcode is valid? ›

Print your barcode and take it to a retail store. Ask if you can scan your barcode at the register. (Bribe the cashier with snacks.) The scanner should pick up your barcode and beep, confirming that the barcode is readable.

How can you tell if a scan code is real? ›

Open up the built-in camera app or QR code scanner app on your device. Point your device at the QR code in question. If your device does any of the following, it's a valid QR code: Shows you a preview of the content.

How do I scan barcodes with my phone? ›

This article has been viewed 304,161 times. Your Android device can scan any barcode or QR code by using a free app from the Play Store. Once you've installed the barcode scanning app, your device's camera can be used as a scanner. You can then take different actions depending on the content contained in the barcode.

How are barcodes not duplicated? ›

To ensure authenticity and to prevent duplicate UPC barcodes from being assigned, the data in a UPC barcode must contain a UPC Company Prefix licensed to a specific brand, an Item Reference Number assigned by the brand owner, and a Check Digit which is mathematically calculated.

Can a QR Code be duplicated? ›

Once you click on it, a drop-down menu will appear. Select Duplicate. 4. Then, a pop-up message will appear, which will allow you to name your QR Code and complete the duplication process.

How do I scan a barcode online? ›

How to read barcode
  1. Upload your image or use take a photo of a barcode.
  2. Choose recognition quality and barcode type (optionally).
  3. Click on the “Read Barcode” button.
  4. Get recognition results.

What is the safest way to pay for goods online? ›

Your standard data connection is more secure. Pay using a credit card. You'll have more protection. Or use online services such as PayPal – so scammers can't get hold of your bank details.

What is the safest online payment method? ›

Secure online payment methods
  • Credit cards. The most familiar form of online payment is also one of the most secure payment methods. ...
  • Voice payments. An increasing number of customers are authorising payments using their voice. ...
  • Payment services. ...
  • EMV-enabled credit cards. ...
  • Contactless payments. ...
  • Payment apps. ...
  • Gift cards.
18 Jan 2022

Which is the most trusted online shopping site? ›

List Of Best Online Shopping Sites In India
  1. Amazon. Amazon has significantly altered the landscape of the internet business. ...
  2. Flipkart. Flipkart is an all-in-one destination for all of your daily needs. ...
  3. Myntra. ...
  4. Ajio. ...
  5. Pharmeasy. ...
  6. Nykaa. ...
  7. Snapdeal. ...
  8. Lenskart.

What are the risks of online shopping? ›

If you're shopping online, there's a larger risk of fraud: credit card scams, phishing, hacking, identity theft, counterfeit products, bogus websites, and other scams are common.

What are 3 ways that a person can protect themselves when buying an item on line or over the phone? ›

Tips to Protect Yourself While Online Shopping
  • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. ...
  • Don't ever give your financial information or personal information via email or text.
  • Pay by credit card, not debit card.
12 Nov 2019

What if a scammer has my phone number? ›

Your phone number is an easy access point for scammers and identity thieves. Once they know your number, they can use it to send you phishing texts, trick you into installing malware and spyware, or use social engineering attacks to get you to hand over your personal identifying information (PII).

What can I do if I got scammed? ›

Report the scam to the FTC online, or by phone at 1-877-382-4357 (9:00 AM - 8:00 PM, ET). The FTC accepts complaints about most scams, including these popular ones: Phone calls. Emails.

Does the FBI call your phone? ›

Since criminals sometimes use “spoofing services” to choose the number or name that shows up on your phone, the call may appear to come from a government agency, from a consulate, or from the FBI or the police, but it actually does not. These calls are fake or “scam” calls.

What if someone uses my debit card? ›

Report a suspicious charge or debit immediately

Contact your bank or card provider immediately if you suspect an unauthorized debit or charge. If a thief charges items to your account, you should cancel the card and have it replaced before more transactions come through.

What if a scammer has my bank details? ›

The bank is just your first call. Report the fraud to the fraud department of all three credit reporting agencies, Equifax , Experian , and TransUnion . File a report with your local police department, and the Federal Trade Commission's department that deals with identity theft.

Does Paypal refund money if scammed? ›

Protection you can count on. If you don't receive the item that you ordered, or it shows up significantly different from its description, you may qualify for Purchase Protection, and we'll reimburse you for the full purchase price plus any original shipping costs, subject to terms and limitations.

What do I do if I bought a fake product? ›

You have the legal right to a refund if you've bought something that's fake or counterfeit. You can also report the seller to Trading Standards or report the seller for fraud. Trading Standards might take legal action against the seller, but they can't help you to get your money back.

What are examples of counterfeit goods? ›

Some of the most common examples of counterfeit goods include counterfeit handbags, clothing, accessories, perfumes, and electronics. However, the most commonly seized counterfeit goods are athletic shoes, specifically, from brands like Nike and Adidas.

How can you tell counterfeit clothes? ›

Tips for spotting genuine designer clothing | Fake Britain - BBC

How do people take fake ID pictures? ›


Which is an indicator of a false ID ghost image? ›

Some state IDs have hidden images and features only visible with UV light. Flash a UV light over the card and you can quickly detect if the image is present or not. If it doesn't show up, there's a likelihood it's fake.

What do bouncers look for in an ID? ›

Many times, bartenders and bouncers will bend the card and inspect the edges. That's because real IDs have smooth, uniform edges. Fake IDs are not printed in the same uniform way as real IDs are, and may have rough edges, have edges with differing smoothness, or even be so flimsy that they come apart.

Is Amazon sell fake products? ›

For the 53 percent of listings run by third-party sellers, Amazon has explicit rules against selling counterfeits, and harsh penalties that may result in account termination or even legal action.

Does Amazon have fake sellers? ›

Battling fake sellers on any marketplace is nothing unique to Amazon. After all, eBay has had its share of counterfeits. However, Amazon's policies have allowed some unauthorized resellers to not only resell products without the manufacturer's permission but also teach others to do the same.

What happens if you return a fake item? ›

If returned, sellers will simply deny it is counterfeit and sell it to another unsuspecting consumer. Dispute the purchase and request a refund from the seller or website. If a refund is denied; notify your credit card company that you have retained the counterfeit product and are disputing the charge.”

What are 5 commonly counterfeited items? ›

$500 billion is lost to counterfeiting every year. That's 3.3% of world trade, and US, Italian, French, and Swiss brands are the most affected.
Table of Contents
  • Footwear.
  • Clothing.
  • Leather Goods.
  • Electronics.
  • Watches.
  • What's Left?
  • Other Effects of Counterfeiting.
  • Most Common Counterfeit Platforms.
9 Oct 2019

What is the most common counterfeit item? ›

Footwear is the most in-demand product category

Searches for fake footwear brands are by far the most popular.

What is the most faked brand? ›

Apple. Apple is the most counterfeited tech brand in the world and, like fake medications, bogus Apple goods are potentially fatal. In 2013, Ma Ailuna, a 23-year-old flight attendant from China, died after she was electrocuted by a counterfeit iPhone charger.

How can you tell if luxury goods are fake? ›

Checking for Designer Details. Examine the bag for brand tags, authenticity labels, and serial numbers. Check to see if your bag has an inside tag with a brand name and a serial number on it (because almost all authentic purses will). The inside tags should be hand-stitched or stamped into the leather.

What is knock off in fashion? ›

an unlicensed copy of something, especially fashion clothing, intended to be sold at a lower price than the original.

How can you tell if Louis Vuitton clothing is real? ›

How to Tell a Real Louis Vuitton From a Fake
  1. Examine the Shape, Proportions and Posture. ...
  2. Look Closely at the Stitching Quality and Pattern: ...
  3. Check the Material, Hardware and Build Quality: ...
  4. Inspect the Stamping, Shape and Size of the Font: ...
  5. Make Sure the Date Code is Correct:
20 Mar 2020

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