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5 facts | January 27, 2018:
Before you, your family, or friends (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) spend another dime online, please take a moment to mull over my "Top Five Dangers" and ways to reduce risk. How many people are really vulnerable? IMRG expects there will be 3.5 billion online shoppers globally by 2013, according to Internet Retailer. It's safe to say this includes your loved ones.
#1) Fake Online Reviews – A collection of five-star ratings can do amazing things for online sellers. As a result, some authors have confessed to posting fake reviews; see "Fake Reviews: Amazon's Rotten Core". Others are now offering a refund to customers, in exchange for a write-up; see "For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews". Ways to Reduce Your Risk – Be skeptical of reviews that lack detail, or are too positive. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp may provide a stronger, direct relationship to people's opinions. Check the source. Does it link to the reviewer's profile and previous reviews, or a social media page that shows the reviewer is real? Dina Rezvanipour, CEO of 3d Public Relations and Marketing says, "I always recommend my clients focus on customer interactions on their facebook and twitter, it helps reduce their risk of people assuming skeptical comments and build a relationship with their customers." Finally read reviews on multiple platforms (e.g. Amazon and epinions.com).
#2) Lack Of Full Cost Disclosure – Additional fees like shipping, may be hidden until late in the checkout process. For example, I was recently stung by ConsumerReports' price comparison engine after it suggested that the best place for me to buy a laptop with free delivery was TigerDirect.com, which is owned by Systemax. When I neared the end of the purchase process, the fine print said I'd have to spend $49.99 on a year membership, to get the "free" shipping. What's worse, I then learned it would cost $189.99 more for Microsoft's software. This meant the actual cost was 20% greater than I was lead to believe. Ways to Reduce Your Risk – Remember there is "no free lunch", in other words you're going to pay for delivery one way or the other. Don't expect software to come with the computer. Finally, don't use TigerDirect or ConsumerReports' comparison engine.
#3) Counterfeit Goods – Even Jeff Bezos' Amazon is having difficulty keeping counterfeits off its site. We know this because a California appellate court recently opined on Amazon's efforts to police counterfeit goods sold by its third party merchants. The decision was noteworthy because Amazon has been using a lower "Policing" standard than set by the court in Tiffany v. eBay. Ways to Reduce Your Risk – If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Research the third party seller or website you are buying from. Don't be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions. Finally, trust your gut.
#5) Identity Theft – According to The US Department of Justice, identity theft and fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. For example, if someone steals your debit card number, your entire checking account is exposed. Within minutes, identity thieves can drain your account and set you back financially for years. Ways To Reduce Your Risk – Just remember the word "SCAM". Be (S)tingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are. (C)heck your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn't. (A)sk periodically for a copy of your credit report. (M)aintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.