Beware of Chinese scam sellers online
June 30, 2021
One of the first Executive Orders President Biden signed after taking office in January was one with a Buy American provision. The point of the provision is to ensure that taxpayer dollars spent by the federal government go to American goods made by American workers with American-made component parts. Savvy consumers wanting to follow this federal lead should educate themselves on who they’re purchasing products from before they buy in cyber space.
Why should consumers care about where products come from? Off-shore products can be dangerous. CNN Business reported on “fake and dangerous kids products” for sale on Amazon in late 2019. One product, a 4-in-1 baby car seat and stroller, used a photo of a 4-in-1 stroller by the popular brand Doona. The product, listed at $299, sold for $200 less than a true Doona 4-in-1.
Suspicious, CNN commissioned a safety test on the car seat at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The false Doona stroller broke apart in a crash at 30 mph. The toddler-size crash-test dummy slid forward when plastic bits of the car seat separated from the rest and flew through the air. In contrast, in a similar test of the true Doona model met federal requirements. It remained in place in one piece and the crash-test dummy remained in the seat.
Amazon is not, of course, the only shopping site with this problem, but it is the world’s largest ecommerce platform. Doona Commercial Manager Amiad Raviv told CNN the company has found over 40 Amazon listings selling fake Doona products. Because many are sold through third parties, Amazon does not check the products for authenticity and relies on companies like Doona to flag these false product listings, which Amazon then investigates and removes.
Meanwhile, consumers purchase the false, unsafe products without suspecting they’re being scammed.
“A lot of people on the Amazon platform think that because it’s on Amazon, it is a genuine product,” Raviv told CNN Business. “And that’s actually really not the case.”
So how can a consumer be sure of what they’re purchasing?
Blossom.com, which sells products around pregnancy, childbirth, and young children, cites that a new listing from China is uploaded to Amazon every 1/50th of a second. In a blog post, Blossom.com informs consumers of things they should watch for when shopping on Amazon or anywhere online.
- Avoid strange spellings of brand names, and watch for language errors in the descriptions.
- Don’t purchase from a seller who posts a photo of a brand-name product but doesn’t identify the product as the one for sale.
- Watch out for products listed only by generic names.
- Avoid products with literally thousands of 5-star reviews. This is a well-known tactic to drive traffic to the product. The reviews are fake.
- Check to be sure the product comes directly from the brand-name manufacturer.
- If the price is unbelievably low, it’s safer not to believe you’re getting a fantastic deal.
CNN adds to Blossom.com’s list that consumers should be aware that any shipping time longer than two weeks might be a red flag that the product will ship from China. Consumers with doubts about a product listing should check with the manufacturer for a list of approved sellers and distributors.
In Wisconsin, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) lists common things to watch for in deceptive advertising.
- Oral or written misrepresentation of the product
- Pictorial misrepresentation – What’s in the photo or illustration is not what you get.
- Unavailable sale items, sometimes called a bait-and-switch scam
- Merchandise advertised as on sale at a tremendous discount – The original price might have been greatly inflated.
- Warranties are only as good as the company behind them.
- Free offers aren’t always free – Some companies jack up prices or disguise negative option plans in which consumers continue to receive and be charged for products until they request it be halted.
- Irregular or seconds not advertised or disclosed as such
If you live in Wisconsin and have been scammed, report it via DATCPHotline@wi.gov, 800-422-7128, or TTY 608-224-5058.