Shopify plays a significant role in the world of e-commerce, enabling numerous online businesses to thrive. However, with the potential for financial gain, there is also a risk of scams targeting both consumers and business owners. Although the positive aspects of the platform outweigh the negative, it is essential for everyone to be aware of the downsides that exist in any vast online platform. To aid in this awareness, several well-known scams that specifically target consumers and business owners on Shopify have been identified.
Furthermore, as these scams become more prevalent, online forums like r/shopify provide valuable information on identifying warning signs and offer advice on how to avoid falling victim to these fraudulent activities. It’s worth noting that these scams are not exclusive to Shopify alone, as they exploit the general technology and trends that underpin online commerce. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise due diligence when purchasing products online or engaging with unfamiliar partners to mitigate the risks associated with these scams.
Beware of These Shopify Scams:
Shopify Scams Targeting Consumers
The prevalence of online scams is widespread, primarily targeting consumers who possess varying levels of knowledge and expertise. Scammers employ a range of schemes and tactics to deceive individuals and make easy money.
Related: Why Is Shopify So Expensive
Off-Platform Sales Scam
One common scam involves initiating a seemingly legitimate purchasing process on an e-commerce platform. However, scammers later coax customers into completing transactions outside of the trusted platform, citing excessive fees as the reason. Once the purchase is made off-platform, the scammers disappear without delivering the merchandise. They make small profits from multiple transactions and a significant sum from the final sale.
With the rise of e-commerce, scammers employ a marketing playbook utilized by legitimate brands. They create fake stores on platforms like Shopify, capitalizing on popular products or categories and promoting them extensively on social media. Recovering money from such scams can be challenging, except when payments were made via credit cards, enabling customers to dispute the charges.
According to a study by Fakespot, approximately 20% of Shopify sites are fake.
Shopify Scams Targeting Businesses
Scammers not only target consumers but also devise detailed plans to defraud businesses and suppliers. Fraudulent purchases can cost Shopify-based businesses a significant amount of money. Although Shopify takes measures to protect sellers, they charge fees to reimburse companies for losses due to fraudulent purchases.
The triangulation scam is a highly profitable and commonly employed tactic by online criminals. Scammers set up legitimate-looking Shopify sites to establish dropshipping businesses. However, instead of selling their own inventory, they purchase items using stolen credit cards. While consumers receive the goods they ordered, the scammers profit from the stolen money. However, the credit card company eventually disputes the charge, leaving the supplier without merchandise and financial loss.
Counterfeit Return Scheme
Although not exclusive to Shopify, the counterfeit return scheme is a well-known scam that poses challenges in mail-order businesses. In this scam, scammers purchase items and later request returns. Instead of returning the original product, they substitute it with a cheaper item. Businesses can protect themselves by implementing return policies that consider this scam or by adding unique identifiers to their products, such as serial numbers.
Duplicate Store Scheme
In the duplicate store scheme, fraudsters mimic popular websites and either fail to deliver the merchandise or provide low-quality goods. Due to Shopify’s ease of use, scammers can effortlessly create duplicate or false storefronts. However, Shopify has implemented proactive measures to identify and eliminate fraudulent stores. While this scam harms both consumers and business owners, Shopify aims to combat fraud swiftly.
Related: Does Shopify Take a Cut?
This particular scam is quite serious and has been observed on various e-commerce platforms, including eBay in the past. Essentially, what occurs is that a potential buyer will make a purchase from your Shopify store and then request a direct invoice from you through PayPal. They claim to be experiencing technical issues on the platform, making it difficult for them to complete the payment.
Once you send them an invoice, you receive a notification that appears to be from PayPal, stating that the buyer has made the payment and is awaiting the tracking number for the product. The fake notification tricks the seller into believing that the funds are being held by PayPal until the tracking number is provided. However, in reality, there is no genuine PayPal holding the funds. If the seller falls for the scam, the fraudster receives the products without having paid for them. This can result in significant losses for the seller, especially if it involves a large shipment or an expensive item.
Related: Is Shopify Legit?
How to Protect Yourself from Shopify Scams
To safeguard your interests as a consumer or business owner, there are some common-sense practices you can follow. As a consumer, it is advisable to use a credit card for online purchases. In the event that you accidentally make a purchase from a fake website, you can file a claim with your credit card company, and they will halt the payment, providing a simple way to protect your interests. Additionally, since fraudsters often exploit social media platforms where these sites are commonly found, it is prudent to read through some of the comments before making a purchase. For new brands and companies, conducting some due diligence is always a good idea.
For business owners, protecting against scams can be more challenging. However, for straightforward scams like fake returns, you likely have established practices in place to identify your merchandise. Yet, when it comes to purchases made with fake credit cards, there are limited options to safeguard your business. As Shopify scams persist (which is likely), it is crucial to closely monitor the Shopify community message board.
In response to client complaints, Shopify takes steps to address fake or duplicate storefronts. Moreover, certain payment tiers on Shopify include fraud protection, albeit at an additional cost. To mitigate the risk of significant losses, consider implementing a verification step in your checkout process for large purchases. If you acknowledge that some degree of fraud is possible (both in-store and online), determine the threshold amount that poses a substantial risk to your business. If a customer makes a purchase exceeding that amount, proactively reach out and contact them to confirm the transaction. In most cases, scammers will provide incorrect identification information, such as a fake phone number.
Ultimately, the adage of “buyer beware” still holds true. However, by recognizing the existence of fraud and taking proactive measures, you can reduce the risks of falling victim to a Shopify scam.
Related: Why is Shopify so Hard to Use?
How to Report Scams
If you encounter fraudulent activity or have a negative experience with a merchant as a customer, you have the option to report it here. This comprehensive list covers various situations, ranging from non-delivery of purchased items to the sale of restricted or illegal products.
However, if you find yourself being scammed by a customer as a seller, apart from having a premium Shopify web store with all the necessary maintenance services, it primarily falls upon you to exercise caution. Selecting a secure payment gateway and consolidating all your transactions through Shopify Payments can be helpful.
It is also advisable to keep evidence of your transactions by taking screenshots of your communication and transaction records. These can serve as proof in case you need to report a scam. Leaving Shopify reviews when such incidents occur can provide written public evidence as well.
Lastly, it’s important to note that despite Shopify’s efforts to combat scammers, fraudulent activity still persists on the platform. For more information on other potential scams and strategies to combat them, you can explore the discussion board.