Safe shopping 101: How to spot a fake E-commerce site

November 13, 2019



As shoppers these days, we are inundated with ads online that offer great deals. It is also easier than ever for someone to set up a full featured professional looking web site. This means it can be hard for shoppers to discern between legitimate small business retail sites, and fake web sites designed to take your credit card data.

What do you do- just pay more to buy at a big box web site you have shopped at before? Smart shoppers can still get good deals at small business sites by using these tips to weed out fake ones.

  1. Check the About page: does it seem like template or canned text? Does it have real background information about the company, such as what year they launched and where they are located?
  2. Call their phone number: most small business don’t use complicated numeric menu phone systems but even those that do should have a pretty quick path to a representative. Speak with a person and ask where their office is, and where they ship from. Ask how the company got their name- simple questions legitimate employees should be able to answer.
  3. Google and verify their address: fake web sites will often still use a real address to appear legitimate. We recently came across one web site that used the address of a shopping mall in Tennessee. When we checked the directory for that mall online, and called the mall customer service, the store did not exist. That was a big red flag.
  4. Check out various pages on the web site. The same site had a blog link on their home page. When we clicked it, it had one article which said with the title “Your first blog post!” and the content began “Welcome to your blog!”. This template text that came with their original web site design was a dead giveaway that whoever set up the site was not a real business.
  5. If the price is too good to be true, it might just be. We found a site selling 50” brand name LCDs for $150.00, and Google Nest Hub Max systems brand new for $50 less than Google or other major retailers. This does not mean you cannot find great prices at small business web sites. Inventory can be legitimately acquired by these businesses due to liquidation or other methods. However consumer psychology studies have shown we as consumers tend to let our guard down when shopping if the price is really good. We are less likely to notice red flags if the offer just seems too good to pass up. So if you spot a great deal, follow the above tips to have confidence you will receive what you ordered.

Getting your credit card information stolen is not just a matter of having to call your bank and have them reverse charges. It also means you have to get a new card- and anyone who uses autopay for bills knows how much of a hassle having to update your card number across the board can be. It is also a gateway for getting your identity stolen. Credit card thieves will use your name, address, and credit card number to find other information about you online and try to open various types of accounts in your name.

This holiday season you can get great deals but still shop safe.

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