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How can reviews improve your online shopping experiences?

Here are our tips for using reviews to get the best out of your online shopping experiences and avoid fake products or fraudulent online retailers.

Millions of consumers benefit from the ease and convenience of buying things over the web every day. And most have good experiences. However, we've all heard of things occasionally going wrong, like web shops that turn out to be fake or non-existent, or retailers who substitute cheap counterfeits.

Fortunately, the latter is the exception rather than the rule. But it never hurts to be alert and do your research before buying. Trustpilot is one of many tools that can help.

4 things to remember when reading Trustpilot reviews:

  • Look at the total number of reviews. If there are only a few reviews of a webshop on Trustpilot, it might be a good idea to compare other online portals. Avoid letting a small number of positive or negative reviews form your entire impression of a business.
  • Read reviews thoroughly. Star ratings or scores will give you a quick overall impression, but the devil is in the details. Aside from looking at the business’s TrustScore, read through 10-20 reviews and see what people highlight as good or bad. Keep in mind that reviews are subjective - what one person sees as a problem may be an advantage to someone else!
  • Check the date of reviews. If reviews are more than a year old, the business could have changed hands or switched focus since then. For example, we’ve seen instances of online shops going out of business, only to have their web address bought and taken over by someone new. In some cases, the new owner of the website may not be as trustworthy as the original owner.
  • Does the business’s TrustScore on Trustpilot match its website? Unfortunately, a few businesses cheat and display a fake Trustpilot logo or incorrect TrustScore on their websites. We take action when we’re notified about this. But if you’re in doubt, check whether the details shown on Trustpilot match what’s on the business's website.

What else should you look at?

Other things consumers can do to get a more complete picture of an online retailer include scanning their website and other internet resources. For example:

  • Does the website’s address (or URL) correspond to the type of product being sold? If the website’s name or address doesn’t relate to the products being offered for sale on the site, then this could indicate a fake online shop. Fraudsters can buy up website addresses that used to belong to legitimate webshops that have gone out of business, and use these to create fake shops.
  • Are any contact details provided for the business? Do these fit with the other aspects of the site? Genuine webshops shouldn’t have anything to hide. But fake websites often have no contact details available, or list illegitimate phone numbers or addresses.
  • Is the language strange? Websites promoting fake stores or counterfeit goods are often created with the help of tools like Google Translate. If the text seems like a translation littered with mistakes, this should raise a red flag.
  • Research a few other places on the Internet. Do a Google search and see if anyone else has written about the website. You can also find out who the registered owner of a website is by going to sites like who.is and doing a search using the web address. If the results don’t add up, proceed with caution.
  • Use common sense and trust your instincts. Have you come across a deal that seems too good to be true? If so, chances are, it probably is.

What can you do to avoid online fraud?

Consumers can draw on a range of different tools to gain insight into the likely legitimacy of a deal. Reading reviews on Trustpilot is a good start, but you should always stay alert and exercise good judgement - including doing more research if it's warranted.

What should you do if you've experienced fraud?

For serious cases, consider reporting the incident to the police, or contacting a local consumer protection organization. Consumer bodies can advise on consumer rights and sometimes help wronged online buyers recover their money.

Keep in mind that while we add alerts to company profiles to warn consumers if we've found evidence of fraud, Trustpilot is an online review community. We're different to a consumer advocate body, complaints site, court or authority and as such, we don't have the same options for taking action.

What’s the bottom line?

Online review sites are a helpful resource that are best used together with other checks. And they should never replace common sense!

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