May 23, 2022

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Shopping Works Wonders

I’m a scam expert – here are the four best ways to avoid getting ripped off online


ALMOST three quarters of Scots have fallen foul of dodgy tactics while shopping online, according to shock new figures.

The Competition and Market’s Authority (CMA) asked adults across the country about their experiences making purchases on the internet.

It's easy to fall for pressures when buying online

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It’s easy to fall for pressures when buying online

And 73 per cent said they believe they’ve experienced misleading practises.

Meanwhile, 83 per cent of Scots felt businesses were being dishonest with their customers.

The authority has now launched an Online Rip-Off Tip-Off campaign, sharing advice on how customers can avoid being duped by on the web.

CMA director Jen Dinmore said: “What we’re trying to do is raise awareness of sneaky sales tactics that traders are using online to get people to part with their hard-earned cash.

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“We’re trying to encourage people to pause before they pay and think about whether they really want to make that purchase, or whether underlying factors are being used to manipulate them to do something they don’t actually want to do.”

Jen shared four of the most common ways Scots customers can be tricked by shifty sellers – and how to avoid the pitfalls.

HIDDEN CHARGES

You may think you’re bagging something for a bargain – but several steps through the transaction, and the cost racks up.

Certain online shops will have unexpected compulsory fees or taxes which only are visible once you are at checkout – and you might feel pressured to go ahead with the original decision to buy the product for a higher price than planned.

Jen’s advice: Treat an original price with caution. If something is adding up to cost more than expected, it is best to shop around and see if any other sites have the same product available without additional extra costs. Always remember, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

FAKE REVIEWS

People are more likely to buy an item or piece of clothing if it has a lot of positive reviews and seems to be recommended online.

However, it is important to keep in mind that sometimes retailers pay people to write positive feedback despite having never used a product. Jen’s advice: Make time to read negative reviews as well as the positive ones, even if there are only a few.

This will give a more balanced view so you can decide if this is something you definitely want to buy.

Another way to figure out whether high ratings are real or fake is by checking the date of five star reviews.If there is a cluster of positive feedback on one day, it is likely that they are not real.

It is also sometimes possible to check other reviews a user has written, which can give an indication of whether they are a real person or a bot.

UNWANTED SUBSCRIPTIONS

Some sites have options for buying a product as a one-off or as a regular subscription, and will automatically choose the recurring option so you have to manually untick the box.

Other services may be upfront about your subscription, but entice you in with low prices that can rise further down the line.

Jen’s advice: Always check how to leave a subscription before you enter into one. This way you can find out if it is as easy to cancel a recurring payment as it was to set it up.

Some organisations can make it impossible to cancel a subscription online and burden the customer with exit fees or phone calls to infrequently staffed lines.

Always set a calendar alert for when you are planning to go through the exit process for a service, otherwise you might forget and end up paying for an unnecessary month. And check your bank account monthly to see if the regular payment amount stays the same or rises.

PRESSURE SELLING

This could involve having a countdown appear, limiting the amount of time a customer has to make the purchase.

It also includes getting pop-up windows telling you how little of an item there is left in stock, or informing you how many sellers have it in their basket and are likely to nab it before you do. All of these details are difficult to verify, and may force a customer to panic buy because they are worried about losing the chance.

Jen’s advice: Shopping on your phone or when tired is a big factor in pressure selling. If you are not able to fully focus on what you are buying and getting pop-ups on your small screen, you will be more easily be frightened into a snap decision.

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Instead, customers should make sure to plan what they want to buy in advance.

Most retailers have sales on a regular basis and plenty of stock, so make sure to check if other shops have what you want first instead of being convinced by the pressure tactics.

Jen Dinmore handed out the expert advice

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Jen Dinmore handed out the expert advice

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