When it comes to growing a business in 2012 and beyond, it’s almost a no-brainer that E-Commerce has to be a top priority, if not the absolute chief concern. With nearly $45 billion in 2012 first quarter online sales alone, anyone would be hard-pressed arguing against the significance of building an online store and building it well.
Although online shopping has revolutionized the way we buy, for as many legitimate Internet retailers there are on the web, there are also too many fraudulent ones.
Complaints against online shoe stores in particular have really been picking up during the month of May on Scambook.com and based on what our users have been reporting, the most common offenses committed by these websites are sending customers counterfeit/non-related merchandise or delivering nothing at all for their paid orders.
Based on the number of reports submitted by our users, the top trending companies for these types of complaints over the last three weeks are Kelly-Mall.info, Rios Fashion Shoes, Anne-Shoes.com and Shop-Cora.com. With approximately $34,000 in total reported damages tied to these four online stores alone since September 2011, online shoe store complaints are picking up speed.
If you’re an avid online shopper, chances are, you’ve purchased a pair or two of shoes at the very least, during your consumer career. It is estimated that in 2012, online shoe sales alone will generate roughly $7.8 billion in revenue, a projected 16.3% increase compared to 2011.
Despite the financial power the footwear industry holds, disposable income is not exactly a luxury that most people hold these days and great online deals are that much harder to pass up. Unfortunately, that is exactly how fraudulent websites try to bait online shoppers just like us.
While there is undoubtedly no absolute fool-proof method to avoiding potential shopping traps on the Internet, there are definitely a few red flags that we’ve noticed to be commonplace upon researching suspected fraudulent online stores. Keep in mind that these evaluation tips are not only applicable to shoe store sites, but to online retail stores in general and can be easily implemented by anyone.
1) Check for Transparency
Most, if not all, major reputable online-exclusive stores such as Eastbay and Zappos have nothing to hide. Legitimate retail companies will generally have detailed “Contact Us” or “About Us” pages with vital information such as customer services phone numbers and email addresses, hours of operation and physical street addresses. What we’ve noticed with sites like Kelly-Mall.info, Rios-Shoes.com, Anne-Shoes.com and Shop-Cora.com is that rather than sharing a lot of information, they provide none or very little and simply offer a submission form of some sort for customers to send messages. As many of our users have detailed in their complaints, a reply may not be forthcoming.
2) Verify the Listed Information
Take a few minutes to call the customer service number(s) or even research the address, if any, on Google Maps. The number listed on Shop-Cora.com is actually bogus and results in an error message when dialed. Often times, these online store sites will also provide nonexistent physical addresses. It is up to you as a consumer to do your due diligence and dig around a bit.
3) Look for Security Badges
Although very well-known online retailers that have built strong reputations such as Amazon do not explicitly display security badges such as “McAfee Secure,” “TRUSTe” and “Verisign,” a lot of other legitimate E-Commerce companies still do to provide their customers with this added measure of assurance that their transactions will be secure. While security badges should never be thought of as a complete guarantee that a given online store is valid and safe, if a site offering products for sale does not have any in plain sight, you definitely want to reconsider making a purchase.
4) Study the Website
Any real business trying to make a serious push for success with their online store will invest the time and money needed to present customers with a well-made website. Of course, the Internet is littered with plenty of aesthetically pleasing fraudulent shopping sites as well, but a certain red flag to watch for is if the site was built with a blogging platform of some sort. You can check this by looking around the home page for platform provider names or checking to see if the URL is a part of a separate domain. Another quick thing to consider is overall functionality – as in whether or not all pictures load properly, if there are an egregious number of typos, or if there are a lot of pages that lead to error messages.
5) Do Your Homework
If you have any suspicions whatsoever, take the time to do some light research about the online store before making your purchase. Whether you go through Google or even Scambook in search of customer feedback, just bear in mind that it is much easier to avoid online shopping traps than it is to attempt to resolve them after the damage is already done, especially if the sites are complete scams.
We urge you to always be aware of the fact that there are indeed people out there who are trying to trick consumers and while our tips do not guarantee 100% protection from becoming a victim of fraudulent online shopping sites or ensure that a particular site is real or fake, we certainly believe that they will give you a fighting chance.
[Statistics Source: http://www.internetretailer.com/2012/05/09/e-retail-growth-nears-pre-recession-levels / http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/1/prweb9132002.htm]