Don’t Get Scammed on Black Friday: Verify Online Retailers

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Black Friday is just around the corner, and all the deals await. Along with the frenzy around Black Friday savings, new online retailers have been trying to get their piece of the pie. It used to be just Amazon, but brick-and-mortar stores like Target and Walmart have gotten in on the action. It's easy to recognize Target online, but less familiar online-only stores are becoming more prevalent. Sites like Temu and AliExpress have gotten a lot of attention lately, and their killer deals have raised a fair amount of speculation.

With billions estimated to be spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, scammers will likely do their darnedest to take advantage of the situation. One of the biggest scams is fake online retailers that promise you unbelievable deals and then send you something different or of lower quality—or send you nothing at all. We don't want your holidays ruined because you trusted a fake online marketplace.

Here's a guide to help you differentiate between legitimate online stores and potential scams.

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Woman shopping electronic online at Black Friday discount. stock photo

Image: ArtistGNDphotography, iStock

How to make sure an online store is legitimate

Black Friday is synonymous with incredible deals and discounts. Shoppers flock to both physical stores and online marketplaces to snag the best bargains on everything from electronics to fashion, making it the ideal time to kick-start your holiday shopping. Yet, amidst the excitement, it's essential to exercise caution when browsing the web for deals.

Check for a secure connection

Before providing personal or financial information, ensure the website's URL begins with "https://" and not just "http://." The "s" stands for "secure" and signals that the site encrypts data, protecting your sensitive information. You should also look for the padlock next to the URL. If you click on it, you should get a dropdown with details about the site's security and be able to verify if the website address belongs to the company it says it does.

Research the website's reputation

Look for reviews and testimonials from other shoppers who've purchased from the website. Established marketplaces like Amazon and well-known retailers generally have positive feedback. If a site lacks any reviews or seems to have only negative ones, proceed with caution.

Verify contact information

Legitimate online stores should provide contact information, such as a physical address, phone number, and customer support email. Double-check this information and ensure it's valid.

Review the return policy

A reputable online store will have a clear and reasonable return policy. Be wary of websites with vague or non-existent return policies, which could indicate they have something to hide.

Search for trust seals and certifications

Legitimate websites often display trust seals or certifications from organizations like the Better Business Bureau, TrustedSite, or Norton Secure. Click on these seals to verify their authenticity.

Pay attention to the website design

While it's not a foolproof method, a poorly designed website with spelling errors, low-quality images, and broken links can be a red flag for potential scams. Established online stores invest in a professional online presence.

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Let Google help you out

Google's Safe Browsing scans billions of websites daily, identifying thousands as unsafe, including compromised legitimate sites. Look for warnings in your browser and on Google Search. You can also check specific URLs to see if they've been compromised.

Signs of a potential scam retailer

Too-good-to-be-true deals

Be wary of websites offering outrageously low prices on popular items. Scammers often lure victims with unbelievable discounts to steal their money.

No contact information

If you can't find any contact details for the company or it provides only a generic email address, it's a warning sign that they may not be legitimate.

Poor grammar and spelling

Scam websites frequently contain numerous grammar and spelling errors in product descriptions, policies, and other content. These mistakes can indicate a lack of professionalism.

Missing or unclear return policy

An authentic online store should have a clearly defined return policy. If this information is missing or hard to find, proceed with caution.

Limited payment options

Watch out if the website only accepts payment through wire transfers or cryptocurrency. Reputable online stores offer various secure payment options, such as credit cards and PayPal.

No reviews or testimonials

If you can't find any reviews or testimonials from previous customers, it's challenging to gauge the site's reliability.

Black Friday shopping can be fun whether you like shopping in physical stores or online. But protecting yourself from scams and fraudulent websites is crucial. These tips can increase your chances of finding legitimate online stores and help you avoid scams.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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