Have you just seen your favorite clothing brand being sold online at an unbelievable price? Beware of this bargain!
After searching for new shoes, you finally find a pair from your favorite brand and at a good price – but the site is based in another country. It seems like a great deal though, so you purchase them. The dream deal quickly descends into a nightmare: your purchase isn’t delivered, it’s defective, or it’s counterfeit. And what’s worse is that the seller has become completely unresponsive. Finally, you also notice that the website has gone offline. It was a “fake shop”, or a fake online store.
What is a “fake shop”?
Most often it is a website that uses a URL domain resembling the official domain of the brand. It could also have a URL domain which has nothing to do with the products being sold, or the addresses of old hotels, restaurants, trade unions, or other public bodies.
- The website is generally found through search engines
- They are sometimes found on the first page of searches
- These sites are generally simple to find: they have the brand’s name, followed by terms like “inexpensive”, “hugesales”, “”goodprices”, etc
- The site is written in your language, it shows the company’s logos, the logos of known credit cards, other payment methods, or even trust marks supposedly showing its reliability – these methods are meant to win over your trust.
- Establishing contact with the company is generally done via an online form; there is no email address or telephone number provided in the Terms and Conditions or in the “Legal Notice”.
Advice to avoid the fraud:
- Check the domain name via WHOIS or national official domain name registries such as AFNIC (for domain names ending in “.fr”) to determine who registered the website and when. Compare the name with the one mentioned on the website itself
- Look at the URL and be wary if it does not correspond to the types of products shown. Also look at the description or snippet of the website found under the website's link in the search engine. The snippet usually provides a brief description of the brand. A counterfeit website's snippet usually shows a series of product names followed by words like "cheap", "free delivery", "savings", "women", "men", or a price reduction. These words correspond to the keywords consumers would type into a search engine when shopping for these products.
- Ensure that the website is secure: if it is, the URL will begin with https:// and will also show a green lock, particularly on the payment pages. However, be careful: fraudulent websites can also be secure!
- Read the Terms and Conditions. If there aren’t any, if they are very short or written in broken language, go away!
- Verify the price of the product you want on multiple sites and, most importantly, on the official brand’s website. If the price is considerably lower, be suspicious
- Look on the official brand’s website to check for a list of counterfeit sellers, for recently many brands verify resellers.
- Check if the seller is a company or a private individual. This is important for the guarantees that you could or could not benefit from. In dealing with a private individual, your protections are diminished.
- To judge the reliability of the seller, no matter whether it’s a company or private individual, you can always check its “seller profile” to consult reviews from other consumers.
- Consult online forums! Other consumers could have been already affected and deceived by the same seller. In addition, be careful to distinguish between false positive reviews left by the seller itself.
- If only one payment method is offered, or if it’s a wire transfer or via a third party, go away! Favor payment by card. Moreover, wire transfers are irreversible.
What to do if you have already paid?
- If you’ve already paid by card, ask your bank or the issuer (brand) of your card your rights in terms of demanding a reimbursement of the payment e.g. chargeback.
- Contact the police and file a complaint for fraud.
- If you contacted the seller through an intermediary website, contact the customer service of this site.