Is Temu Safe?

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With the tagline "Shop Like a Billionaire" Temu has certainly given itself a lot to live up to. Designed to imply that prices are low enough that you can buy whatever you want without feeling the impact on your wallet, the phrase has garnered plenty of interest. Not all opinions have been positive, however, and many have been left wondering about the legitimacy of the site.

The intrigue was heightened by Temu's massive advertising push when it burst onto the scene, and it certainly managed to quickly get a lot of eyes on the platform all at once. This led to what was both a controversial and interesting debut, but the question remains, can it back up the promises it's making?

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Beware of Organized Retail Crime (ORC)

Organized retail crime, which often involves coordinated efforts to steal items for illegal resale online, is one reason to be careful in online marketplaces. Find out more about ORC and which stores are being closed down because of it.

What is Temu?

Temu is one of the newest discount online retailers to pop up, debuting in the U.S. in September 2022. This online marketplace promises cheaper, faster online shopping, spurring its quick growth. Claiming to be headquartered in Boston, the Chinese retailer has expanded to 22 different markets worldwide, including Canada, the UK, Australia, Mexico, Japan, and more. 

Since its launch, Temu has developed a bit of a reputation and the response has been quite divisive. It is also arguably one of the most controversial shopping sites circulating at this point in time. Having said that, the platform continues to skyrocket, shooting past Amazon, Walmart, and Shein to become the number one free shopping app (on Google Play and Apple), as of July. 


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Safety: Is Temu trustworthy?

Promising low costs and fast shipping, Temu does somewhat live up to its tagline, but that doesn't mean it's all sunshine and rainbows.

Data security

Temu has copped a lot of heat for the data it collects and the fact that its parent company, PDD Holdings, is based in China. In fact, many have argued that the app is designed as spyware rather than an online shopping platform. We won't comment further on the specifics of these claims, as we're not legal professionals in this area. What we will say, however, is that the same can be said for many popular apps.

The biggest concern here is multiple reports of banking or credit card information being sold or leaked after use on Temu. People have taken to social media to warn others after noticing unfamiliar charges or withdrawals.

If you want total privacy, it's probably best to steer clear. Temu requests the same permissions as many other apps, and while this is quite invasive, whether or not it's a red flag is up to the individual.

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Temu controversy and rumors

Any fast-growing retailer that threatens giants like Amazon is bound to inspire rumors, suspicion, and controversy. Here are some of the top stories circulating about Temu.

  • The New York Post reported that Temu is collecting data for Communist China.
  • Temu's sister site, Pinduoduo was suspended by Google over malware, prompting Temu to erase all references to the tainted sister platform.
  • Fast fashion retailer Shein sued Temu in December, claiming intellectual-property infringement. Basically, saying that Temu tried to trick consumers into thinking Shein and Temu were the same brand.
  • Temu responded with its own suit agains Shein, claiming Shein is violating U.S. antitrust law by prohibiting vendors from working with Temu.
  • A growing number of influencers are accusing Temu of being a scam—accusing the platform of everything from identity theft to promising products that show up very different from what you thought you ordered, or simply never arrive.

Product quality and availability

Significant concerns have also been raised about the amount of complaints placed regarding orders never arriving, as well as the quality of goods that do arrive.

In terms of whether or not your order will arrive as described, Temu certainly falls into the buyer beware category, but that's no different from any other bargain basement online retailer. As long as you check the reviews and follow our tips for shopping “like a billionaire,” your order should show up how you're expecting it to. This is still not a guarantee, of course, and it's important to remember that you get what you pay for. 

The platform also offers reasonably fast shipping given the price point, and could be a good choice if you're looking for an extra guarantee in this regard. This is because Temu promotes that it will give customers a credit if their parcel arrives after the stated time, so you usually don't have to worry about when things will arrive.

Pricing: Is Temu legit?

The pricing on Temu may appear too good to be true, but generally the price advertised is what you'll pay. Promises of free items, however, always come with a catch, and can be quite hard to achieve, so take these offers with a grain of salt. The built-in games also take a lot of time and effort to get anywhere with, so it probably isn't a good idea to pin your hopes on scoring the massive discounts that it promises.

Having said that, the platform regularly offers discounts which bring pricing down even further than face value, and those can usually be trusted. These discounts are often significant, but it should be noted that they come with a time limit, and are clearly designed to create a sense of urgency and get you to place an order quickly. 

Of course, as is the case with Shein, it’s important to consider the ethics of a platform like Temu. Though the site is new enough not to have too many allegations against it, it likely follows the same rule as all online retailers—that is, for a product to be priced so low, something (be it Temu's workers or the environment) is likely being exploited.

It is also worth noting that Temu has a minimum purchase amount which, in our research, appears to go up with each order, so this is something to be aware of when shopping. The standard initial minimum seems to be either $10 to place an order or $20 to get free shipping—we think it's a good idea to not exceed this too far on your first order so you can get a feel for the types of products you'll be receiving.

Tips for shopping like a billionaire

If you decide the potential risk is worth the savings, follow our tips for safer online transactions before you start "shopping like a billionare."

  1. Limit your expectations. While products are generally quite cheap, you certainly get what you pay for. In most cases, expecting high quality goods is going to leave you disappointed, although most items are reasonable. Products are generally sourced direct from whoever makes them, but there are also plenty of options on the site that appear to be knockoffs of well-known brands. The jury is still out online as to whether these products are genuine, but it is safest to assume that they're not. 
  2. Check the reviews. Reviews are your best friends and you'll want to check them closely before committing to a purchase. If buying clothing, we strongly recommend checking measurements rather than selecting garments based on size, and choosing a size slightly larger than you need is advisable.
  3. Use a safer form of payment. We've seen enough rumors about people's financial info getting into the wrong hands after shopping on Temu, that we recommend using a temporary virtual card number (most credit cards and even some banks easily supply these). These temporary numbers make it easy to track where data got hacked and it protects your actual funds from being accessed. You could also use a service like Afterpay, that lets you buy now and pay later.
  4. Deliver to a safer location. You can ditch porch pirates and scammy websites by using a delivery locker depot or a P.O. Box for delivery instead of your home address. That helps you share less personal data that could be leaked, sold, or used to steal your identity. 

Final word

So, is Temu a scam? That really depends on what you consider a scam to be.

As long as you're OK with sharing the data that the app requires and can grapple with the site's potentially questionable ethics, you can get cheap goods of reasonable quality in a relatively quick timeframe.

There are definitely more security-conscious options out there, but it comes down to personal preference as to whether it's worth having a look at what Temu has to offer.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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