• Posted by CERC India
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Don’t be conned while shopping online

Despite the popularity of e-commerce, there are several dangers a consumer faces


From clothes, furniture and electronic goods to groceries, medicines and even jewellery – you can get almost anything online. Convenience, wide choice and good bargains are luring Indians to shop online. In fact, according to a report by Google and AT Kearney, e-tailing (sale of retail goods on the internet) will touch $60 billion (around Rs. 4 lakh crore) by 2020 – 25% of the total organized retail sales in the country.

Like every coin, there is a flipside to e-commerce too – fraud and cyber crime. In this article, we will be focusing on fraud in online retail.

How you can be cheated

At times, the product may not be delivered or you may get a fake or damaged product. Worse still, you may become a victim of identity theft and your financial details may be stolen and misused. You can be cheated by the website, seller, delivery person/courier service or by a hacker.

Fake website: These sites look like genuine ones with similar logos and domain names. The scamsters extract money from buyers and disappear. To find out if a website is authentic type in the URL in the address bar. This prevents you from visiting a fake or malicious website.

Check if the domain is registered and which company is backing the portal. Fake portals usually do not have company information. You could also check the company’s trust rating on http://www. which will give you details about the firm and how safe it is to shop from the site.

Genuine site, fake seller: The scam could be by the seller or courier company, not the site itself. Though sites scan the sellers hosted by them, it is not possible to identify all scamsters.

Courier company: Here, both the site and seller may not be to blame. If they don’t choose a reputed courier, you could land a dummy package. A specific employee of the courier firm may also be responsible for the fake delivery.

Hackers: During e-shopping or bill payment, if you do not choose a safe site or payment channel, it is easy for hackers to steal your card information by intercepting the data. Hackers may also attack e-commerce providers and steal customer data.

According to 69% of merchants surveyed in one study, sales via third-party websites like Amazon or eBay are particularly susceptible to fraud. These are followed by mobile sales (mentioned by 64%) and sales via their own online shops (55%).

Warning signs

 While shopping online you are offered unbelievable discounts and deals

  • You receive an email or a phone call asking you to buy the products
  • You are declared the winner of a contest and asked to pay a fee to get the prize
  • No cash on delivery option given
  • No grievance officer as mandated by law
  • Complaints by other buyers on online forums

Precautions to take

Purchase related

  • Shop through established e-retailers with transparent exchange and return policies.
  • Don’t be lured by low prices. Check the MRP and ratings and reviews of the product and seller by other buyers.
  • Don’t click on links about sales and discounts you get in e-mails, SMSes or WhatsApp. Instead, go the company’s website to check details.
  • Make a video recording during delivery and opening of package.
  • Do not volunteer bank details or any other critical information on complaint sites.
  • There are online shopping sites that require you to log in through Facebook or mail. Don’t do that. It can be an easy entry point for fraudsters.

Payment related

  • Use a separate credit card for online shopping of lesser value or a debit card connected to an account with less funds.
  • Avoid direct payment to sellers. Opt for payment services like PaisaPay in eBay, which ensures that the seller is not paid by the site till the product is delivered, safeguarding your money.
  • Avoid payments on mobile phones if you have not installed firewalls or anti-virus software.
  • Register for SMS and e-mail alerts from your bank. This will help detect a transaction you haven’t made.
  • While transacting on websites, use a virtual keyboard to avoid keystroke logging.

If you are cheated…

pg26piGet in touch with the website or the seller. If it’s a fake site, it’s impossible to seek redressal. Consider your money lost. If you have opted for a safe site with a guaranteed exchange or money-back policy, you could write to the site giving details of the fraud. If the site doesn’t respond, you could register a complaint with a consumer court. A good option is to put up the grievance on consumer complaint sites and Twitter.

Online fraud jargon

Cloning: Your credit card data is stolen to create a fake card. The data is often encoded on the magnetic strip of the card.

Keystroke logging: Here you unknowingly download a program that tracks every keystroke. This allows the fraudster to gain passwords and online banking and credit card information.

Pharming: You are routed to a site that has been hijacked by scamsters to collect critical information.

Phishing: Spam mails, acting as if from a genuine agency or bank, trick you into parting with personal information like account details or passwords.

Smishing: This is phishing on mobile phones and takes its name from SMS (short message service).

Sources: The Economic Times, Business Standard,, CERC publications


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