Avoiding Online Shopping Scams

Here’s a scheme used by fraudulent sellers on sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, or third-party sellers on Amazon, Walmart or other retailers. The buyer makes a purchase and submits payment, and the seller responds with a USPS, UPS or FedEx tracking number. Several days later, the tracking shows the item as having been shipped and delivered. However, either no package ever arrived at the buyer’s home at all, or a tiny, worthless item was shipped (i.e. the buyer orders a laptop but receives a ring from a toy vending machine).

When the victim reports the issue to the website they bought the item through, the scammer will attempt to use the tracking information to refute the claim, essentially “proving” the item was delivered. The major selling platforms are aware of this scam and have some steps in place to deal with it, but it’s still not easy to prove a negative; do you send a photograph of your porch with no package on it? After all, there are also fraudulent buyers who will receive an item, claim it never arrived, then get a refund through the site or payment processor.

The best way to rectify this scam is to not fall for it in the first place, and the number one way to avoid this type of scam is to never believe a sale price that’s too good. Unless you find Easter candy on a Target endcap in October, or run across a going-out-of-business sale at an actual brick-and-mortar store, you’re not getting 90% off anything. Especially online.

Nobody is legitimately selling a hard-to-find $700 graphics processing unit for $70. Or genuine Ray-Ban sunglasses for $20. Or $150 Rolex watches. $80 iPhone 12’s. $50 Jordan 14’s. It just does not happen in the real world. There are discounts out there, sure, but if the price seems too good to be true, assume something isn’t right.

Remember that manufacturers don’t discount high-demand, low-supply items. They don’t HAVE to. If it’s sure to sell out anyway, and they’re only making a limited number, why would they needlessly reduce their own profits? It always pays to remember how the world really works.