Ecommerce Fraud Signs and Prevention
February of 2023, a husband and wife were invited to a 1920 themed wedding. Excited, they started looking for their perfect costumes to wear. She found a flapper dress quickly however the husband was having a difficult time locating a suit. Several weeks passed and the husband stumbled on what appeared to be a reputable website specializing in 1920, custom fit suits for men.
The couple read over the suit reviews, the business advertised “made in America” and had an “easy” return policy. Neither could locate a phone number on the website. Folks, this should have been their first red flag however they thought the firm was following in Frontier Airlines footsteps by discontinuing their customer service phone number.
The couple decided to move forward with the suit despite not locating a phone number. He selected a wool suit, deep brown in color. He then entered his measurements, confirmed the mailing address, provided a payment method, and submitted the order. A short time later an email confirming the order was received and it would take three weeks for them to custom make his suit.
Three weeks passed, no suit or confirmation of his order had shipped. Week four, a medium size envelope was laying on the front porch. Within the envelope was a wadded up, brown, chrome suit made of polyester (not the wool suit ordered). Quickly, they took pictures of the suit and emailed customer support advising the suit received was not what was ordered. This should have been their second red flag.
Two days passed before customer service responded. Of course, they were sad to hear he was not happy with the suit. A full refund would be issued if they received the suit back within 72 hours. The return mailing address provided was in Pakistan (they live in the United States), the couple would have to pay for the product to be returned and they required a tracking number of the return. At this point, it finally sunk in they had been scammed.
The young couple reached out to their friend who is a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) to see what they should do. The CFE dug deeper into the business and discovered several interesting details.
- The addresses listed on the website were vacant and abandon lots or were not actual addresses.
- The business name used on the website and the name used on the credit card charge were two different names.
- Neither name could be located with the secretary of state within the United States.
The CFE recommended the couple reach out to the credit card fraud department, file a fraud claim, and provide their supporting documentation to the credit card company for a refund.
Due to increasing popularity of online shopping, competitive pricing with the luxury of items shipped to your door, online shopping scams are on the rise. This business sold products online to consumers which appeared to be high quality. However, when the product arrives, it is a completely different product, low quality and the sizes are generally made to fit Asians or smaller body frame. The business then makes it difficult and almost impossible to return the purchase for a refund.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter promote these fake clothing websites constantly, especially if you look at clothing on Amazon (it’s in the cookies). Fraud websites constantly change the domain URL along with the name of the company.
It is difficult to fully protect yourself from online scammers but there are a few additional steps to take before making an online purchase.
- Ensure the website’s URL (address) is secure. It should begin with a closed padlock and “https” at the beginning.
- What does the item cost? If the price of the product seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Are clothing images similar to well known online businesses? Scammers will steal images of clothing, shoes, and models for their own page. Then remove the models face.
- Does the business offer multiple contact methods, such as an email address, phone number or physical address. If so, take a moment and research if the information on the site if real of fake.
- Use a protected payment method, such as PayPal or a credit card that offers fraud protection.
In the event you become a victim of an online scam, take action right away.
- Reach out to your credit card company or payment application used and report the fraud. Ensure you provide as much supporting documentation and evidence as you can.
- Report the business to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).