Six things to look out for amid Black Friday sales as consumer officials warn of 'rogue traders'

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The festive shopping season is here, and with Black Friday fast approaching, the chances of falling for a scam online are higher than ever.

Consumer Protection officials have been warning of the increase in ‘rogue traders’ online since the beginning of the pandemic, and with thousands shopping online for presents over the coming weeks, there are certain things that are vital to look out for.

From clone websites to counterfeit products and false payment options, scammers have many tricks to convince you of spending with them.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has released a checklist of things to monitor when online shopping, with key tips to ensuring you’re not scammed out of your hard-earned money this Christmas season.

Check reviews, social media pages, and location

When shopping online, it can be hard to know who you are buying from, so you need to do some research before deciding to spend.

Check their reviews, social media pages and where the business is based. If you can’t find this information easily, you should question its legitimacy.

If the business is based outside of the EU, you should look for an alternative EU store to ensure you have stronger rights if you encounter any issues.

Six things to look out for amid Black Friday sales as CCPC warn of increase in ‘rogue traders’ (Image: gettyimages.ie)

Is the item you’re looking for vastly cheaper on one website?

Be careful of small, unknown traders offering a high-demand product online or on social media that is out of stock everywhere else.

Do some research, look at online consumer forums and on social media for additional consumer reviews or feedback about the business before you buy.

Also, don’t let a low price be the only deciding factor when buying online.

A cheaper price doesn’t always mean a better deal and if it looks too good to be true, more often than not, it probably is.

Are all of their online reviews positive?

When reading consumer reviews on a businesses website, be wary if all of the reviews are positive.

It’s important to keep in mind that products and services with authentic consumer reviews are more likely to have a mix of consumer feedback across the rating scale.

So, watch out for products or services with only positive reviews or exclusively five-star ratings!

Are there obvious spelling mistakes on the website?

Watch out for poor English, such as spelling and grammar mistakes, or language that doesn’t sound right.

Just because a website has an ‘.ie’ address does not mean it is an Irish registered business. You should also check that the website lists contact information, including a contact email address, phone number, and geographical address.

You can also look for VAT numbers or company registration numbers because this information can be verified through government and EU websites.

Additionally, if the site has a ‘Contact Us’ page but only offers a form to fill out, be wary.

How do they want you to pay?

Consider using online payment services, such as PayPal or a pre-paid credit card, to avoid potential scammers getting a hold of your bank account details.

Pre-paid debit cards or credit cards provide an extra layer of protection as there is no direct withdrawal from your bank account.

Be wary of offers for a bank transfer facility, or request that you pay by card over the telephone, or to come into the store (sometimes a pop-up) to pay by cash.

When you are paying, look out for an ‘s’ after ‘http’ at the beginning of the URL and a padlock symbol in your browser’s taskbar, which shows that the website is secure. If it isn’t there, be very wary of proceeding any further.

Check the item complies with EU safety regulations and standards

If you buy online, open the packages and check the items for any irregularities or issues as soon as they arrive.

If you are buying children’s toys, be sure to look for the CE mark on the product, in the instruction manual or on the packaging.

The CE mark is essentially the manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with EU safety regulations and standards.

If there is no visible CE mark, it may be an indication that the toys do not meet the required safety standards and should not be used.