Buying goods and services online have become increasingly popular as the most preferred shopping method in recent years. That is because it gives shoppers great value, including a wider product range, better prices, convenience, and a hassle-free shopping experience from the comfort of their homes. However, it’s not always rosy. Shopping online comes with some risks, such as the possibility of being scammed by bad actors pretending to be authentic online sellers.  

How is that possible? 

The presence of countless online sellers offering similar or different products and services at different prices provides shoppers with many benefits, such as multiple brands to choose from; massive discount rates, seamless surprise gift plans for friends and relatives; time and money saving; and 24 hours access to goods, services, and support. 

Unfortunately, bad actors are also aware of these, and they always try to exploit people shopping online by providing the benefits above and pretending to be the real online vendors that shoppers want to patronize. As such, shoppers need to know how to differentiate genuine online sellers from fake ones and identify red flags to avoid being scammed by fake online vendors. 

Below are some red flags to watch when shopping online. 

  • Unsecure Website: A reputable online vendor will mostly have a secure website indicated by a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar or rely on a reputable payment company like Flutterwave to process their payment. This shows that your personal and financial information will always be encrypted and protected to prevent unauthorized access. If none of that is available, and you see a warning that the site is not secure, it is best to avoid making any purchases. 
  • Lack of Contact Information: Legitimate online vendors will have easy-to-find contact information, such as a phone number and an email address. If you can’t find any contact information or you cannot verify the ones available, it might be a warning sign that the online seller is not legitimate.
  • Unrealistic Pricing and Offers: If you come across a product with an unusually low price or see a seller offering something that seems too good to be true, they most likely are. Be wary of online vendors who offer significantly lower prices than their competitors. 
  • Poor Ratings or Reviews: Do your homework before making a purchase. Examine online reviews and ratings for the vendor and the product you want to buy. It’s best to avoid products with a high number of negative reviews or low ratings.
  • Suspicious Payment Methods: Be wary of vendors who only accept cash, cryptocurrency,  or transfers to suspicious accounts not registered to their names or business name. Such payment methods are difficult to trace and provide little buyer protection that reputable companies like ours provide. 
  • Pushy or Aggressive Sales Tactics: If a vendor uses high-pressure tactics and an unnecessary sense of urgency to get you to buy a product or pay for a service, it’s a sign that they may be after your money instead of looking out for your best interests.
  • Lack of Transparency: A reputable vendor will be transparent about their shipping and return policies and any fees or taxes associated with your purchase. If you can’t find this information easily, it’s a red flag.

Although most online vendors appear genuine, many fraud cases have been caused by not watching out for and paying attention to the red flags discussed above before making payments. We recommend trusting your instincts, double-checking with a friend to confirm the validity of a vendor, and looking for payment security symbols like “Secured by Flutterwave” that show your funds and data are securely processed by Flutterwave before making payments. Remember, if something seems suspicious or too good to be true about an online seller, it probably is, and it’s best to be very careful. 

Written by Chidiebube Dim with contribution from the Fraud Team at Flutterwave