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Online Shopping Scams Philippines

While shopping through web shops or phone apps is very convenient, be in the know about online shopping scams first so you don't end up becoming a victim of fraud. While most of the tips below are for shoppers, some still apply for sellers too so read on.

Online Shopping Scams Philippines

Online Shopping in the Philippines

Lazada, Shopee, Beauty MNL, Carousell, Zalora, Sephora, eBay, Amazon, Carmudi, Lamudi, Galleon, brand-based online shops and a bunch of other sites including Facebook or Instagram shops as well as grocery delivery services sprouting here and there definitely proves that e-commerce is now the new way to shop, even in the Philippines. PayPal's data research cited that about 12.6 million Filipinos do shop over the web.*

Popular brands not only sell through brick and mortar stores but also through their own e-commerce shops online. Even major malls like SM and Robinsons have their seller page in Lazada along with other known names (called flagship store).

My Experience as an Online Seller

During the heyday of then (now OLX), I've been lucky enough to have profited (a bit) by being a seller through the site so I know it really does work. I was able to sell items which were not available in the Philippines such as manjakani pills and a scar remover product. The site was also an effective option to find second hand items or offer some of mine which were no longer used. However, the website had been flooded by scammers at one point which resulted to lower user experience ratings and eventually its demise.

Fight Scam? Be Ready for Scammers!

Back when Sulit was still up, there used to a be forum where both sellers and buyers can post anything. There were useful resources about spotting scam. Possible scammers are even flagged through those posts. I was one of those who have been active in the forum. Wrong move.

While it's not wrong to try and do the right thing, it was wrong in the sense that my seller profile can be easily tracked back to my personal information. The other so-called vigilantes on the site obviously (and smartly let me say) used unidentifiable profiles. So it was easier for scammers to fire back at me. I, who was, exposing scam was then accused as a scammer. They trolled me all over the web too; getting threats via direct messages. The worst I've experienced was a phone call with the guy on the other line cursing me. I eventually had to delete my profile there and became more careful with personally identifiable information (a subtle way to say, "paranoid"). 

But there's always a bright side to every dark moment. It helped me to be aware of numerous possible scams in online shops. I had since then become more vigilant about such and stay informed.

Online Shopping Scams Philippines

Here are some of those scenarios which I've seen first hand from my time as a seller. I have personally experienced some while others were based on accounts posted on the Sulit forum and related Facebook pages/groups. Other cases have recently happened (news clips and other resources). I feel sad that people can be so smart to come up with such ideas but use it negatively.

Seller to Buyer Scam

A scammer will post the same advertisement through the same shopping network or in another one. They may copy everything including text and images or just a little bit and adding some of their own copies. The seller's contact information will then be theirs and not the legit seller's. Once an interested buyer contacts them, they will then contact you pretending to be a buyer. They will pass on the payment information you provide to their buyer. You are paid but will ship out the item to the scammer, not their buyer. They can even re-sell or use the item without shelling out anything. Here, both the legit seller and the buyer becomes a victim.

Red flag:

So if a seller provides payment information which don't seem associated to them in anyway, beware! Dig deeper.

If you are the seller in this case, save all buyer conversations so the Site or financial source support can help you later.

Duplicate Ad

In connection to the above, carefully scrutinize the ad to make sure it wasn't copied elsewhere. A quick check option is to highlight the text and just copy and paste onto a search engine. You can also right click the images and choose "Search Google for Image." If the ad does end up copied elsewhere, see if it's actually the same shop owner as sellers do operate in various sites. It can also be just a case of innocently copying some facts publicly available about the product. So one quick check is to ask for a real time snapshot of the item on hand.

Meetup versus Shipping only

Something is fishy if a seller doesn't want to meetup even if they are close to your location. They may come up with excuses like they are out of town and offers shipping only. Their location may also be too far flung beyond belief. Not discriminating people from Mindanao but the region is often used as address for those who don't want to meet-up.

If you're a seller, exercise caution when meeting up with a buyer. Ask someone to accompany you. If you're alone, choose a public place where you can easily scream for help. Bring items which are used for protection too such as a pepper spray. Avoid bringing a lot of cash as well as expensive gadgets too.

Reused or Fake Tracking Codes

In case shipping does become your option, run tracking codes through their appropriate courier website if applicable to double check. It's because scammers may give made up codes or reuse ones found elsewhere online.

Item Not as Described

No item received is as bad as getting something completely different. This is where COD or Cash on Delivery becomes handy. You have a chance to check the item right away after paying or before you do so.

I'm still doubting the veracity of videos circulating on Facebook when gadgets ordered from a popular shopping site end up delivered as soap bars or rocks. Their reaction sounds staged for one. As for me, I've been buying from the said site for years now but haven't come across anything like it. From what I understand, you need to pay as soon as it's handed; hence, cash on delivery. The delivery guy will not accept the item back anyway even if you open it and find something wrong. They will just tell you to follow the return/replacement process. Anyway, I never purchase expensive gadgets online.

Asking or Sending IDs

Identification cards don't guarantee anything. For all you know, they could have pretended to be a buyer and asked for a seller's ID or vice-versa (shop owner to an inquiring shopper).

There is a recent scenario which can better explain this. It's not technically online shopping but the transaction still happened over the web through an apartment for rent scam. If you follow the thread, the person behind it had used the same trick through an online selling scheme.**

Identity Theft

The previous scenario can lead to identity theft. The guy whose ID was used then became a victim. People who had been conned by someone else using his information had started to send him threatening PMs.

Fake Social Media Profile

Because of the two previous context in mind, even seemingly legit social media accounts are no guarantee specially if they offer to add you but the profile they send appears too new or with too little information like friends as well as posts. Back then, it was so easy to create multiple fake accounts. It's at least better these days when email providers and social network sites (like Facebook) are imposing verification prior to approval to prevent fake profiles. It's still lacking though because SIM cards are cheap for SMS codes. 

In connection to this, it's good practice to Google your name or look it up through social media networks to see if anyone else is using your details. Perform a reverse lookup on some of your publicly viewable profile photos too. On your browser, just right-click on the image and choose "Search Google for Image" or anything similar. Note that there are obviously limitations to this search such as when the user has not saved the copied image as "public" or it's not indexed by searched engines. 

PayPal Refund

If you are accepting PayPal payments as a seller, make sure to read the merchant guidelines carefully to protect yourself from fraud. A buyer can become the scammer by disputing via "Item Not Received or Not as Advertised." On the other hand, the shop may also do the opposite so know how to dispute the payment.

Credit Card Fraud 

Never give out credit or debit card numbers unless it's a trusted site or app. Over the web, the URL should have a secure protocol, "https." Don't save the information too even if it seems convenient since you regularly shop through the same channel. In case you do, secure the login details by using a strong password. Don't use one which can be easily guessed like birthdays, names etc. Even people you don't know personally can obtain such details through social engineering via chat, forum, social media groups and so on.

Fake Bank Deposit

An interested party will send fake bank deposit details and will request to have the money back after they change their mind. It's quite tedious to remember how much funds you have on your bank account but it will be easier to do so if you separate personal savings to one you use for business. 

I am not encouraging everyone to not trust sellers. There is such a thing as "healthy paranoia" where you are still optimistic but still realistic about possible negative experiences from people. 

Do yourself a favor, Google "online shopping scams philippines" or change the location to read up on how you can prevent becoming a victim. 


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