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How I was (nearly) a victim of internet shopping fraud

office 620823 640I do love a bargain but sometimes this can lead me into trouble. Last week I almost lost money. Here’s what happened – and how I escaped by the skin of my teeth. It is the boy’s birthday in a few weeks’ time. He wants games for his Xbox. These are expensive. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is £38 on Amazon; Plants versus Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is listed at £25.69 and Ark: Survival Evolved is £43.49 (yes, I know it’s a 16 but at least he isn’t asking for Call of Duty WWII is an 18 and costs £48 on Amazon). Assassin’s Creed, another 18 and apparently much desired, costs £38.

Anyway, I decided to do some shopping around. I put some of the game names into Google and pressed shopping. I find a site which lists several of the games above for around half the price. It’s an odd looking site but it has a London address and takes cards and PayPal. I show the boy who is obviously far more sensible than I am and he declares it is dodgy because the games are too cheap. A little internet search shows quite a conversation about the site (by the way, it has now disappeared, fortunately). Quite a few people have lost money according to Trustpilot. So, a lucky escape: and serves me right for being a cheapskate.

But apart from price, what else should have alerted me? Consumer organisation Which? says there are things you can do to check you don’t use a fake site including:
1. Check the domain name: it might mention a brand or product but isn’t the official site – and watch out in particular for those which end .net or .org as they aren’t often used for shopping.
2. If the site asks for bank transfer avoid: you’ll miss out on the protection offered by a credit or debit card;
3. Look out for poor spelling or grammar and make sure there is contact us page with a phone number/email address;
4. Reputable sites will have a returns policy and terms and conditions. 6. Check reviews on several sources such as Trustpilot and Feefo and look at the company’s social media. If there are several similar reviews, be wary: they could be fake.

What this has taught me (apart from listen to your 11 year old: they aren’t stupid) is not to assume that if something pops up on Google shopping doesn’t mean it’s pukka. And if something looks odd then it’s worth giving a miss. Even if it is cheap, it could be expensive in the long run.

And see our guide to internet safety here

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Wednesday, 24 April 2019