Online shopping makes it seamless and easy for customers to browse through retail stores' products, browse through their product offerings, and purchase items with just a few clicks. However, simplicity is not without challenges. There are many legitimate online sellers, but scammers can abuse the anonymity of the Internet to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

Here's how it works

Using the latest technology, scammers create fake retailer websites that resemble legitimate websites. Their designs might be sophisticated and their logos could have been stolen.

Several of these websites sell luxury items at extremely low prices, including clothing, jewelry, and electronics from popular brands. Occasionally, you will receive the item you paid for but it will be fake, and at other times you will not receive any item at all. 

The payment method on a retail website is one of the biggest indicators that it's a scam. You may be asked to send money in advance by scammers, and it is unlikely that you will receive the item you purchased if the money is sent.

Scammers are now using social media platforms to set up bogus online stores in an attempt to fool consumers. They open a store for a short period of time, selling fake brands of clothing and jewelry. Soon after making some sales, they close up shop. Social media is also used by them to advertise their fake sites, so do not trust a site just because it has been advertised or shared on social media. Search for online reviews before making a purchase to spot fake traders and social media online shopping scams.

Real-Life Incident

The story is about Sowmiya living in Salem. Sowmiya ordered 11 shirts from Dhitya Fashion, an online shop she found on the internet. Her payment of Rs 4220/- was to be made through Google Pay in advance to Dhitiya Fashion's WhatsApp group admin, Sasikala, who ensured delivery of her order. 

Sowmiya asked Sasikala for tracking information several days after placing her order, but he did not receive a reply. As Sowmiya repeatedly messaged them with requests for updates on his order, Sasikala either made excuses or didn't respond at all. Upon Sowmiya's request for a refund since she hadn't received the order, she removed her from the WhatsApp group and blocked her. Therefore, she had no choice but to share his experience on social media.

Also Check: Fraudsters trick people by posing as army personnel on OLX

The warning signs

1. If a product appears to have unbelievable benefits or features, or it is advertised at an unbelievably low price, it is too good to be true.

2. A seller demands immediate payment or payment by wire transfer or e-transfer. The company may ask you to pay for vouchers in advance before you can take advantage of a discount or a giveaway.

3. A  store selling very low-priced products is very new and is based on social media. Information about the store's policies and delivery may be limited.

4. Insufficient information is provided about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution, or contact information by an online retailer. There may be a problem with the seller being located overseas, or the seller refuses to accept a secure payment system.

5. Shopping online? Here's how to stay safe - The use of digital escrow platforms for payments is recommended. When you make an online payment with Escrow, no financial information is shared. There is a platform for escrow called Vouch.

How does digital escrow work? 

In digital escrow, a third-party account holds the money deposited by the buyer until the seller fulfills the terms of the contract. The escrow company supervises the transacting parties.

What is the role of Digital Escrow in preventing online fraud in India? 

Digital escrow services are offered by many companies in India. Among the most trusted is Vouch.

Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for buyers and sellers to build trust and secure a clean transfer of product and payment. Sellers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated promptly, and buyers will feel confident that their order will be delivered as expected and on schedule. Vouch Digital Escrow keeps you updated and informed at every step of the transaction process till the end. Vouch’s professionals are always available to assist you with all queries that you may have during the entire transaction process. 

There is no scope for deceit or fraud since the payments, shipping, delivery, and execution are carried out under the honest and watchful eyes of the Vouch’s professionals. With Vouch, any business transaction becomes transparent, uncomplicated, and hassle-free. If you ever come across a fraudster asking for OTP, asking you to scan a QR code, or asking you to click on phishing links, you can simply refuse and ask him/her to proceed with the transaction through Vouch.

This is Fraud Story #228. Check back here for more fraud stories and scams that you can protect yourself from.

Safety is not just about protecting your credit, debit card number, and UPI accounts. It's about having control of your money till you've received the product or service you bought online!

Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about avoiding frauds like these and how to act when you're becoming a victim of such a situation. 

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