Fake websites often look very genuine. Scammers pretend to be a legitimate seller by using familiar branding and domain names to convince the buyer that the site is real (which it is not).
Disclaimer – We should say that the large majority of sites are genuine, and in most cases are small businesses trying to sell their products honestly. Fake sites TEND to be trying to sell household names, brands you are familiar with and have been around for years.
But, there are a few who spoil it for everyone else, and these sites are what you need to look out for. Nevertheless, don’t let this put you off buying online! Just be wary.
How do they do this?
- Unfortunately, it is very simple to set up a fake site. Online selling platforms, such as Shopify and Wix, allow scammers to easily build an online shop front featuring stolen logos and branding.
- In many cases the scammers use a similar sounding domain name to the real thing. This might be, for example taking our site, BogusBuster.org and recreating a fake site Bogus-Buster-uk.com. On first glance it is easily passible for the real thing. You might wonder why the original brand doesn’t own all the domain names to prevent this happening – the answer is they are expensive and you simply can’t own everything.
- Fake sites often offer luxury and designer goods at budget prices.
- Frequently, your money may be taken but you may never receive any goods.
What should I look out for?
- All good ecommerce sites have a domain name which starts https: if you can’t see the ‘s’ in the https address, do not buy!
- One clear sign that a site may be fake is the type of payment requested. Scammers often ask for vouchers, pre-loaded money cards or bank transfers.
- If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Beware very low prices and ‘one off’ deals. Don’t get involved.
- Can you find information about the company with ease? This could include their delivery methods, return policies, conditions of use or contact details. If not, this isn’t a good sign. This ‘small print’ is often at the foot of the webpage and by law, a company address should be included. Most good marketplaces will also include their VAT Number, although this is not a legal requirement.
- Spelling and grammatical errors – while genuine websites may have these too, an abundance of errors on a website may suggest that the website is not what it seems.
How can I protect myself?
- Have a good look around the website. Make sure that there is information about how to contact the company if something goes wrong and how to return it.
- Make sure you only use secure payment services when buying anything online. Look out for the domain name beginning with ‘https’ and the closed padlock symbol in the top left corner of the screen. PayPal is also very good and safe option.
- Have a look at reviews before buying. What are other people saying about the website, have they had a good experience? BE CAREFUL with this one – reviews can also be fake so take this with a pinch of salt – having 100% 5-star reviews might not necessarily be a good thing
I have been scammed. What should I do?
If you believe that you have purchased something from a fake website there are a couple things you can do.
Firstly, attempt to contact the site. There may be a legitimate reason for the problem.
If you paid through PayPal, you can open a dispute with them here. You may be able to claim your money back by opening a dispute. Find out how to do this here.
Alternatively, contact your bank and dispute the payment through them. You can find correct information for all UK banks here.
You may also want to contact the host of the site to report the scam. You can find out how to do that here.