We’re all shopping online more during the pandemic, so it’s important we’re vigilant of scams and fakes. Have you spotted any suspicious websites lately?
Bigger brands can be easy targets for fraud, so always be on your guard when you see cheap prices for popular items.
In some cases you’ll be paying for counterfeit goods while other sites simply list non-existent bargains before disappearing with your money.
Topwhs.com (which was created on 26 March 2020) claimed to have warehouse clearance prices for Lego, using the Danish company’s branding and images.
We heard from recent customer Ian, who ordered three Lego sets and received confirmation via email telling him that payment would come from ‘Peachshadow’.
A tracking number which originated in China followed soon after but, a few weeks later, a small jiffy bag was pushed through the letterbox containing a black scarf in a plastic bag. No sign of the Lego.
We’ve recently had similar reports of people receiving scarves instead of Clarks shoes after clicking through on scam Facebook ads.
The company initially apologised for the mistake and asked for photographs of the package, its contents and the tracking number. Ian sent them all three but has heard nothing since.
Getting a refund via his bank – using chargeback – initially proved worthless as his credit card provider told him he must send the scarf back to China at his own expense (a whopping £25) under scheme rules.
Ian explained that he had requested a returns address or a pre-paid returns label from Topwhs.com with no response. If the company does reply with a returns address, he may have to pay to return the item.
Topwhs.com has not responded to our request for comment, and now the site has vanished.
A spokesperson for Lego told us:
We are aware of the existence of websites that mislead consumers in different ways and we take all of these incidents very seriously.
While we don’t comment on our specific actions, what we can say is that when we are made aware of or observe any situation where consumers are misled and our intellectual rights are violated we always take the appropriate actions to protect consumers as well as our brand.
We believe that consumers should always be aware of when they are purchasing a genuine Lego product and when they purchase something else – and they should not be misled when purchasing.
We are aware that it may be difficult to identify a fake online store, but if in doubt, consumers can be certain that the official Lego shop is genuine.
Always do your research
Even if the price isn’t ‘too good to be true’, do a few final background checks before entering your card details.
A quick Google and a read through of some online reviews could be all it takes to avoid being scammed.
These reviews can be faked of course – we explain how to spot the signs here – but a flurry of negative comments is a very bad sign.
For sites selling branded goods, you can always contact that brand directly via its official channels to verify any adverts or offers you’ve seen.
And remember, if a site has a padlock in the address bar and begins with https (rather than http) this doesn’t mean that it’s automatically safe.
While you should never enter sensitive details on sites without one – as the padlock means the connection is encrypted – it doesn’t tell you anything about the content or intentions of the site.
Getting your money back
If you’re worried you’ve been scammed, let your bank know what’s happened immediately and read our guide to getting your money back.
Section 75 offers legal protection for credit card purchases over £100, but you may still be able to get a refund using chargeback if you’ve spent less than £100 or used a different card.
For chargeback, you’ll typically need to raise a dispute with your bank within 120 days of the purchase or delivery date – we explain the rules and quirks of chargeback here.
Have you spotted suspicious adverts or websites? Ever placed an order for a product only to receive something else entirely?
If so, let us know in the comments below so we can help warn others.