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The Scam that is online shopping.

Published on 28 May 2019

The internet is home to many things, from funny cat videos on YouTube to funny memes about our parents, the internet has brought us many great things. But with it comes new ways for con artists to scam their way into people’s wallets.

Recently here in Kenya a relatively popular Instagram store was exposed. The store claimed that it sold authentic designer handbags and was located at a popular mall in Nairobi’s Lavington area. A lot of people fell for the scam. The “store” created a very credible front: it was allegedly located in an upscale neighborhood, it had very high quality pictures of their “merchandise” and they were very affordable. People trusted this store because it seemed pretty legit. Only it wasn’t. Unsuspecting customers were required to pay a deposit (half the price of the item) before the item was shipped to them and the other half after they received the goods. Many paid the cash upfront but none received anything. When some customers went to the alleged location shop they found that the shop did not and had never existed. They were scammed.

Scam artists find new ways to make money by preying on unsuspecting customers. But it’s not only scam artists you need to be afraid of. Even reputable sites like Amazon and Jumia have fallen victim to bad publicity because of people looking to score a quick penny. Counterfeit stores sprout up like mushrooms every week and make a killing by manipulating gullible shoppers.Losing a small chunk of your money is one thing but losing your entire life savings could quite literally destroy you. For instance, when you shop online using your credit or debit card, you have left yourself completely vulnerable to identity theft. The owners of the site you are shopping from have access to your account information and could easily empty your entire account in minutes.

Staying safe online

There are a number of ways to protect yourself from online scam artists and it is important to use each one of them when online:

1.Don’t pay using your credit card or debit card. Sign up for services like SwypePay that allow you to deposit a small amount of money into that account in order to facilitate a particular transaction. The great thing about this is that you won’t lose any money and your confidential information remains safe.

2.Beware of ridiculous offers and discounts. If you stumble upon a site that offers insane discounts look away, don’t even bother. It is most likely a scam. Discount prices below 55% are very rare at least from reputable sites so avoid these “too good to be true” offers.

3.Fake online reviews. When you search for a product and it has a 5-star rating, be skeptical. It is nearly impossible for a service to have perfect rating. Besides companies can buy good ratings for $2 a review so this should not impress you in the least.

4.Create a unique password and username for each site. It may be tempting to use one universal password for all your apps and websites but this is not advisable. Sites and apps can be hacked. In fact, in 2018, Quora was hacked and valuable information about the users was taken. If the app valued at $1.8 billion can be hacked, that random Instagram store you just found out about two days ago can be hacked.

5.Shop only from reputable and trusted sources. If you don’t know it and it seems very sketchy, it probably is. The best thing for you to do is to stick to the tried and true platforms. Don’t put yourself at risk just so you can get a “good’ deal or be the first to try a new service.

Shopping online is fun and convenient. And as you indulge in this new wave of shopping ease, it is important that you look out for number one (that’s you).

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