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ONLINE sales have boomed over the past two years – and sneaky retailers are taking advantage.
As many as seven in 10 shoppers have experienced potential rip-offs when buying things on the internet, according to a new survey carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Angellica Bell co-hosts the Martin Lewis Money Show on ITVCredit: Handout
A growing number of consumers are falling victim to sly tactics – from being lured into buying something that’s overpriced to coughing up for hidden fees and taxes or being duped by fake reviews.
TV consumer expert Angellica Bell – who co-hosts ITV’s Martin Lewis Money Show – is fronting the CMA’s new Online Rip-Off Tip-Off campaign.
She warns: “The way we shop has changed completely especially over the last couple of years.
“We also want things quicker than we used to.
“The digital retail world is changing and ever-evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
“Retailers are very good at knowing how to manipulate people how to behave.
“We act differently when we’re not face-to-face with a salesperson. Misleading tricks can catch out the most alert person.”
Here Angellica, 45, exclusively shares her top nine tips to help Sun readers avoid falling into sneaky sales traps and shop more confidently.
Don’t be fooled by subscription trial offers
Introductory new subscription service offers are enticing and clever.
They open a new world to you that you might not have previously been interested in because it was too expensive.
Make sure you do all your homework first. How long is the offer on for? When does it end?
If you go ahead, set up a calendar reminder to review your subscription before the end of the trial period to avoid regular direct debit payments going out after that.
Remember, you don’t have to tick the “yes” box!
Fake review catchphrases
It’s always important to look at reviews, but remember that some businesses pay or reward people for positive feedback.
My advice is to “review the review”.
Beware of reviews that look similar or just use general terms like “fantastic”.
Real reviews often give detail. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Spot sneaky hidden fees
There are so many great offers online nowadays, but people can often get caught out as they approach the checkout because extra fees, including unexpected admin charges, are regularly added on.
Treat the original price with caution – if it is low, it might be designed to lure you in.
Do your homework beforehand by comparing it with other sites.
You might have to pay an initial higher price for the item, but once all the online extras have been added on, it could work out cheaper.
Be aware of return fees
If you’re buying online, it’s not uncommon for items to be sold by foreign retailers, and extra taxes are sometimes applied at the check-out.
Do your research first about where your product is coming from, because as well as taxes, if you want to return it, you could also incur the cost of sending it back abroad.
Check out the seller
Make sure before you buy an item that the company has a phone number, address, or email for you to contact them should you want to return it.
Yes, you might save yourself £20 buying from a more obscure outlet, but it might cause you more bother in the long run if they don’t have any customer service details and you can’t trace them.
Resist ‘buy now’ pop ups
How many times have you found yourself going, “oh no, there is that pair of trainers I would like but they are very low in stock, I’d better buy them quickly?”
Retailers want you to panic-buy, but remember there are multiple sales nowadays and there will likely be others later.
You may end up getting a cheaper price by holding on.
Avoid risky evening retail therapy
A lot of people shop after work online – but if you’re tired after a busy day, you might be less alert and fail to check the all-important Ts and Cs.
Why not leave the item in the basket until the morning?
That way you won’t get caught out.
Watch out for fake ‘sale’ emails
If you get an email or text with a link to a brand that has a sale, don’t click on it.
Instead, open a new tab and go to the brand’s official website to check the sale is genuine.
Otherwise it could be a phishing trap to get you to reveal personal information.
Put your offline hat on
When shopping online, especially big ticket items like furniture, it’s important to consider whether you would put up with the same sneaky tactics when you shop on the High Street.
Don’t think or buy differently just because you’re shopping online.
Ask the questions you would ask a sales rep. Things like, “When can I bring it back? What is the returns policy?”
And if in doubt, don’t buy online – pop into your local retailer to speak face-to-face with a rep.
It’s basic, but always check at least two sites before buying.
Take advantage of handy apps that show how prices change.
Angellica shares her top consumer tipsCredit: Rex