Robin J. Pugh
Online Shopping continues to be a fast-growing sector for retailers across the globe. In the US, sales during the period known as Cyber Week or Cyber 5 – the period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday – reached $35.3 billion in revenue, which exceeded projections by almost $500 million, according to digital research firm ROI Revolution. On Cyber Monday alone, shoppers spent $11.3 billion.
Just as online sales continue to rise, so does online shopping fraud. According to the Better Business Bureau, the projections of online shopping fraud loss for 2022 will be around $380 million. The Federal Trade Commission considers online shopping fraud to be the second-most prevalent type of fraud.
Online shopping fraud can take many different forms. Sometimes it will be misleading social media ads or fake websites that are designed to collect credit card information and never deliver the sold items. Other fraudsters use fake shipping confirmations to keep the customers engaged in the process, and then continue to demand more and more payments in order to pay additional shipping charges.
So how can we protect ourselves and our bank accounts from being defrauded? There are some easy steps that every consumer can take to protect themselves. Take a look at this example:
I went onto my Google search engine and typed in Playstation 5 Sale and began scrolling through the 40,000+ results that popped up. The first rule of safe online shopping: BEWARE OF PRICES THAT LOOK TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE — watch out for outliers.
The Sony PlayStation 5 Digital Edition offered by a site called “Sablehubs.net” is significantly less expensive than the others. So should I take a chance on this Christmas Bargain? Let’s look a little deeper. The first thing I notice when I go to their site is that it’s running an outdated Black Friday/Cyber Monday video, and every page has a “Shop now and save up to 50% on BLACK FRIDAY” banner at the top. We’re many days past both of those shopping events, and a reputable site would undoubtedly have updated their pages by now. Another good rule of thumb: PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS ON THE SITE. Are there spelling errors, obviously outdated information or unusually worded content that raises your suspicion?
Next, let’s take a look at their product lineup. Conveniently, they have an “All Products” tab, which reveals a whopping 966 pages of products! The products are a bizarre mix of gaming systems, espresso machines, playground equipment and high-end rowers. Again, using good old-fashioned common sense, small online retailers will not logically have such a wide-ranging assortment of products. Again, this fails the red flag test.
So, if we did decide to take a chance on a bargain and order the Playstation, what does the shipping look like? When I navigate to the product on their site, it’s an even better price than the Google results showed – instead of $410.00, it’s $399.99. And it says Free Shipping, USA 3-4 days only.
Clearly, they must be located in the US if they’re shipping that quickly. Under their “Contact Us” tab, I see that Sablehubs is showing a US address of 75 S. Broadway, #400, White Plains, New York. When I search that address in Google, it shows dozens of businesses using that same address, and it appears that they are all using Westchester Business Center as a virtual mailbox. So, they’re definitely not warehousing and shipping my Playstation from White Plains. Also, under their shipping policy, they reference their shipping fees for shipment “to the United States.”
Let’s see what happens when we Google “Sablehubs”. Several scam detection sites pop up, leading me to believe that I’m not the only one suspicious of Sablehubs. But also, another similarly named business, “Sable Hub” pops up, as well as an Amazon storefront. Sablehub.com [not to be confused with sablehubS.com] sells an interesting assortment of wig products and running shoes, and guess what their address is? Ding! Ding! Ding! You guessed it – 75 S. Broadway in White Plains, New York.
As our final sanity checks on Sablehubs, let’s see what Scam Adviser and Trustpilot have to say: Scam Adviser says that the site is very new – less than 30 days old – and is using a domain registrar known to be used by scam sites. It has very low traffic, and the domain owner has chosen to mask his/her identity. On the other hand, no one has reported Sablehubs to Scam Adviser as a scam site yet.
When I go to Trustpilot, I see that Sablehubs has 5 reviews and 4 of them are very angry customers who have been scammed. Our instincts were right!
Online Shopping Fraud is rampant and growing every day. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by sharing these simple steps. Trust your gut instincts – if it’s a retailer you’ve never heard of before with prices that are too low and a website that doesn’t read quite right, take the steps of consulting resources like the Better Business Bureau, Scam Adviser and Trustpilot. A few minutes of research can save you from getting scammed!
P.S. Less than 48 hours after writing this blog, Sablehubs.net has been taken down. Imagine if we had taken the chance and spent $400 on the Playstation….
Additional Consumer Resources:
Report online shopping fraud to https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/