It has never been easier to shop for shoes online. Sadly, it also has never been easier to create a fake website that sells shoes online. To help protect fellow shoe lovers out there from these scammers, we put together this guide on how to tell if the website you’re shopping on is only out to rip you off. And you don’t even need to do a Whois search, a domain name registration check, or anything technical — the following 7 red flags should already tip you off that a website is fake right at first glance.
1. The URL looks wrong or suspicious.
You can’t expect a legitimate transaction to happen from a website with a URL that reads “cheapdesignershoes,” “designershoeswholesale,” or “brand-name-shoes-outlet.” However, some scam websites have gotten creative; in the image below, you can see how they have worked around the suspicious URL problem by using other seemingly innocent-looking albeit non-shopping-related URLs. If you click on them, they redirect to another website, which is a clear sign that a shopping website is fake.
2. The site uses poor English.
If a shopping website makes you ask if you’re on an online store or Engrish.com, then you should probably close the tab. No legitimate e-commerce site would publish misspellings and bad grammar. Valid sites would put more effort into the product names, descriptions, and overall content.
Stay away from a website that instructs you to get your shoe size like this:
There’s a lot more leeway for mistakes in the product feedback, but be suspicious if a buyer reviews “sexy red stiletto heel platform shoes” when the actual item is a pair of polka-dotted pumps.
3. The product images in the website are stolen pictures.
If the photos of the products a site is selling are not uniform, it’s a big, flashing red sign that they were just taken from other websites. Legitimate websites use their own images taken by their own photographers. Fake websites, on the other hand, just take images off the internet.
Below are two examples of images that were obviously lifted from other websites. We’ve been shoppers at Neiman Marcus for a long time, so we know that the shoe images on the left are theirs. In the image on the right, you can even still see the celebrity cropped out of the original pic.
Scam sites also typically offer many of the same products using the same pictures.
4. They don’t accept credit cards.
It’s very easy to copy and paste credit card images on a website, but on fake ones, they are only there for show. Scammers don’t like credit card payments because credit card companies can give the customer his/her money back if a dispute is filed. Watch out for a website that accepts Western Union and Moneygram. Through those anonymous direct cash payment services, scammers can run away with your money scot-free.
5. The deals are too good to be true.
Limited edition, out-of-production Christian Louboutins for $205? Get outta here! No, seriously, get out of the website. The shoes sent to you will most likely be pirated or fake, that is, if they are even sent to you at all. The old adage prevails: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
6. The contact email addresses are free ones.
You don’t even have to contact a website that uses a free Hotmail email account to know that it’s fake. If they provide a phone number, call during business hours to check if anyone answers. If they provide a street address, look it up on Google Maps to see if a business at that location really exists. Be wary if a website only has a contact form and provides no contact information whatsoever.
7. The site’s payment or checkout page does not begin with “https.”
Any kind of payment, checkout, or shopping cart page must have a URL that starts with “https.” If a website asks you to fill out a form and the URL for that page only begins with “http,” don’t enter anything and exit that page immediately. On those unsecure pages, anyone can hack your information, and you can stand to lose a lot more than just your hard-earned cash.