Ten Tips to Avoid Online Shopping Traps

Online shopping is welcomed for its convenience and economy. Well-developed international shipment systems make it possible for people to purchase anything from other counties. Many online buyers purchase from China as they believe things made in China are cheap and of high quality. However, some people are still skeptical of online shopping believing that they are more likely to be taken advantage of online than in a shop. Actually, if you are familiar with the online scams and know how to deal with them, you can still benefit from this popular way of shopping. Here are 10 tips to help you avoid possible traps you may encounter when making purchases from Chinese online suppliers.

 1. Choose reliable shopping websites.
Qualified sites usually have good customer service and the quality of the goods can be guaranteed. Shoppers enjoy fast, safe and smooth purchasing. However, in some cases, shoppers have reported that the websites disappeared as soon as they paid. So, collect as much information as possible before you pay. The following tips can help you identify whether it is a reliable sites:
• There is detailed introduction to the company or site, contact information (including address, fixed-line phone and fax numbers), terms & conditions, guidance for shopping, shipment, payment, and privacy policy at the bottom of the site; 

• It has security labels, such as VeriSign, Cybertrust, D&B, and McAfee. Websites registered in China also have an ICP number at the bottom of the site; 

• Shoppers are able to pay through a legitimate third party payment tool, such as Paypal. Most legitimate Chinese international shopping sites accept Paypal; 

• It has customer feedback and reviews on the page. The firsthand experience of other customers can be more persuasive and helpful to potential buyers. You will learn more about a product or a site from others’ comments on a product or the site, positive or negative; 

• Search the domain name of the site. Search the domain name of the site on a professional domain search site, and you will get the registrant information of the site. Pay special attention to the “Domain Create Date” and “Expiration Date”. An old site is more likely to be a good, experienced, and trusted one, while a newly registered one probably will be a fake or temporary one; 

• Use only sites whose address starts with “https:”. Personal information is required when you log into a site or pay for an item. “S” stands for security, which helps protect your personal information from hackers. 
Further reading: How to Identify a Real Leading China Tour Operator

 2. Be skeptical of sale or discount goods.
Sale or discounts signs are attractive, and we all want to buy cheap and good things. However, as a Chinese old say goes, “You get what you pay for”, discount always indicates poor quality, flaws or other shortages. Don’t be over swayed by low prices. Read carefully! A typical example is a man who bought a cell phone online, but only received a model of the phone. He realized that he was attracted by the large red “Discount” but ignored the small “model” on the advertisement.

 3. Be a rational consumer and buy the things you really need.
Many shoppers will find related or package items when purchasing an item. For example, you are going to buy a swimming suit but order a swimming suit, a pair of swimming glasses and a cap at a “package” price. Actually, you already had a pair of glasses and a cap, and now you have two of each.

 4. Protect your personal details.
Do not click on unfamiliar sites or links in strange emails, which would lead to fake or phishing sites. Once you start a purchase on these sites, your personal information, including your name, date of birth, address, phone number, credit card number and passwords, will be stolen. 

Do not make purchase on public computers or from free WI-FI connection. Many public places provide computers or convenient free WI-FI service. This, however, also gives hackers more chances to steal users’ personal information.

 5. Double check the shopping applications on your smart phone.
More and more people are making purchases from their smart phones. But some shopping applications require access to the user’s information, such as contact lists, messages, call records, and passwords, which they may then give away to unscrupulous cheaters. Choose applications that require less permission or restrict the apps’ access permission on your phone.

 6. Negotiate with your supplier before paying.
Apart from color, style, and size, it is also necessary to confirm the shipping method with your supplier, especially when you make an international purchase. You should make it clear whether the price covers the cost for shipping. If the seller offers free shipping, what is the shipping method, by SURFACE, SAL or AIR mail? Most Chinese supplier will choose the cheapest China Postal service for free-shipping items, and it will take as long as 2 months for a parcel to reach its destination. What is the postage for a parcel from China via AIR, SAL or SURFACE mail? When can you receive your item? What if it gets lost during shipping? Is it refundable? For more information about shipping, please check China Postal Service.

 7. Pay with a credit card through a reliable payment tool
Legitimate online shops accept credit cards and a third party payment tool. If a seller does not accept credit cards or asks you to pay via wire transfer, stop the purchase. If you pay with a debt (ATM) card or wire money and something goes wrong, there is no way to get your money back. A third party guarantees that you actually pay after your receive the item; it you don’t receive the item, the bank that issues your credit card can help you get your money back.

 8. Don’t take any chances!
We have received complaints about online shopping scams. For example, a buyer purchased a very cheap laptop from a Chinese online supplier. He paid with his debt card but did not receive the laptop. He contacted the supplier and was told that he did not pay the tax the first time, so he reluctantly transferred the tax to the supplier, expecting to receive the laptop. However, several days later, the supplier informed him that his parcel was at customs and he needed to make another payment to let his parcel leave customs. He never did receive the laptop and the supplier disappeared. So do not take any chances. Stop the purchase if you are suspicious that something may be wrong, or you may lose more money.

 9. Check your credit card account or bills regularly.
This is very important to those who do a lot of online shopping. Check your credit card account regularly to see if there is any abnormal payment and if you see anything suspicious notify your credit card company immediately!

 10. Keep records of all purchases.
Keep the chatting records, emails or messages you receive from the supplier. Both words and screenshots can be useful proof if the supplier does not keep his word.

- Last modified on Mar. 14, 2019 -
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