The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

How to Avoid Online Scams

Recently, someone left a comment on one of my archived posts warning readers about a sketchy company that claims to sell authentic Ugg boots. The reader says she placed her order and waited for weeks, but never saw the boots. Multiple attempts to reach customer service or get her money back have failed, so she's trying to warn other shoppers about this totally bogus and phony Ugg retailer.

Reading something like this is really upsetting, especially since the reader says she was trying to get the Uggs as Christmas gifts for her nieces. But it also reminded me of the importance of really knowing who you're buying from before you make a purchase—especially around the holidays when criminals prey on unsuspecting shoppers who are literally desperate to get that latest "must-have" item under the tree by December 25.

So here are some tips to help you avoid online scams, because scoring a "great bargain" is not worth the very real risk of losing your hard earned cash (or your personal information, for that matter):

  • Buy from online stores that also have brick-and-mortar stores. If you shop at the Bath & Body Works at your local mall, you can pretty much guarantee that is a legimate website too. Double-check the url to ensure you're in the right place.

  • Research the website. Do a quick Google search for the name of the store and "review." That's what I did for the Ugg retailer in question, and right away, I found dozens of serious complaints from customers on various forums. Red flag, people! Steer cleer.

  • Assess the quality of the website itself. Does it have a neat, professional layout? Are there misspelled words? Does it at least claim to have secure checkout, contact information and a clear return policy? I understand many fledgling companies don't have the resources to produce fancy e-stores, but if a website looks really sketchy and sloppy to you, don't risk it. Wait and see if the store is still around in a couple months, then consider making a purchase.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This old adage certainly rings true in the digital age. If some store claims to sell dirt cheap "authentic" Uggs in styles and sizes that are sold out everywhere else, you know something's up.

How do you shop safe online?

Watch out for scams selling flights online! I went to this so-called website reserving my flight from NYC to Vegas and I gave all my credit card information online. After hitting "submit" button, they inform me that my reservation is not guaranteed.

As per their FAQs:

Am I guarenteed a ticket(s) once I make a reservation online?

No. Although our booking system is live and connected to airline inventory, reservations are still subject to airline cancellation. Furthermore, your credit card must be valid and verified. After booking, you will receive an auto reply from our system and then an email confirmation from one of our partners. Please read both of these emails and take any appropriate action required (if any) to complete your purchase. Once your reservation is ticketed, your ticket(s) are guarenteed by the airline. "

This means that I gave out my credit card information for nothing! No email, no receipt was given except the last page where I was told to print. A few hours later, a rep from their company told me that the airlines "rejected" my reservation and therefore I do not have the tickets.

I made sure to check my statement that no charges were made to my credit card. DON'T BE FOOLED!!!
#1 bujuy on 2008-12-16 08:33 (Reply)
#2 Shelle on 2008-12-16 11:07 (Reply)
Has anyone heard of this site that claims to sell designer items, all for under $30?? I got an email about it through my blog email address, but I couldn't find any info on it and whether it's legit!
#3 MizzJ (Homepage) on 2008-12-16 12:56 (Reply)
I look for PayPal. If the store/site uses PayPal, you can pretty much guarantee you will get your money back if something goes wrong.
#4 Nicole on 2008-12-16 13:51 (Reply)
Well said, BB. It is SO easy to get scammed these days, and if it devolves into identity theft, you're in a world of hurt.

I, too, look for checkout features like PayPal approval and Verisign.
#5 Sal (Homepage) on 2008-12-16 13:56 (Reply)
Great topic! I was scammed by a specific discount clothing/shoe store that you can find on ebay (they also have a website) last summer when I tried to find cheap bridesmaid shoes to match my gold dress. The shoes ended up costing me $40 all together, including shipping, and I reasoned that I could wear them often. The site looked secure, so I placed my order. A couple of weeks went by, the wedding date was quickly approaching, and it became clear I was had. I received no confirmation email, and no tracking number, but they had my money. I emailed the company almost 50 times, got no response. Every single time I called them (like 15 times a day), the line was busy, and guess what? They didn't even have an answering machine. I finally contacted PayPal. I was quickly issued a refund. When I did a search for reviews on the store on google, I saw almost 1000 complaints on the Better Business Bureau site for that store. It has an F rating. I was so happy I got my refund.

Ladies, please check if the store is on the Better Business Bureau site before ordering if you find it sketchy.
#6 Joann on 2008-12-16 14:36 (Reply)
my husband who is a computer geek by trade ;-) says to see if they have the verisign feature (guaranteed fraud protection) or paypal..
good post!
#7 Real Style Real people (Homepage) on 2008-12-16 15:43 (Reply)
Do not buy from!! Their site looks trust worthy and they do ship your items but the items are not authentic uggs. There are no bad reviews on this site. They even had sold out items. People probably believe they are authentic when they receive them. I wore mine for 3 days and they ripped. I have a real pair of Uggs from the ugg store and their in perfect condition after a not buy uggs from anywhere but or any other authorized ugg retailer
#8 Sara on 2008-12-17 17:47 (Reply)
I agree, this is a GREAT post. I bought some body creams and soaps from this website online. IT was so great! All natural, great prices...or so I thought. Long story short, it took 8 weeks to get the product and a refund! I emailed the company several times and never got a response.
Now, if I order some places that are start up/small businesses, I always send an email or call and ask questions about shipping, return policies, ect. just to get a feel for the customer service.
Googling the company name and reviews is a good idea as well.
#9 DeeLuvly on 2008-12-17 17:50 (Reply)
I agree that doing research on a company can have a lot of benefits, and can save you a huge headache and A LOT of money. Just because someone has a web site and claims to be in business for 20 years doesn't mean it is true. You can check the WHOIS report on any site to check to see how long they have been up on the net.

I was recently ripped off for 8,000 prior to starting my S. Corporation. I was so enraged that I started my own web site at:
#10 Garen (Homepage) on 2009-07-15 16:46 (Reply)
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