Be careful when shopping online

The public is being warned by the police to be extra vigilant when conducting transactions arising from advertisements on social media.

While an online marketplace, such as the one on Facebook can provide a seemingly great opportunity to find affordable, new, and second-hand items, as with any kind of business deal arranged online, itโ€™s important to proceed with care and conduct due diligence before entering into any transaction.

Today, the ways businesses are done today are transforming or have transformed with the development of information and communication technology, especially with the advent of online and social media.

Instead of having to physically visit a shop or a store today, one can see numerous and different businesses selling a myriad of products online on Facebook, Google, and other websites. They have everything โ€“ from gadgets to shoes, dresses, toys, cleaning supplies, and anything else that we want readily available for purchase.

Further, there are also many of those unfortunate lots, who have bought something online only to find out later that the business was fake and they have been scammed. This is becoming a common occurrence in the country too with many Bhutanese becoming victims of unknown online businesses.

Such an occurrence is also happening because of the temptation that many of us have while being online. For example, we find an advertisement for an interesting product. We talk to the seller and we are convinced. We immediately place an order with full payment for the product and then wait anxiously in anticipation.

The real problem only starts after a few days or a week, when we donโ€™t receive any message about the product despite the incessant messages we send and the calls that we make. It is only then we know that we have been duped.

Similar to some of these conniving and online tricksters, disguised as genuine sellers or businesses with a lot of grandiose promises, we, as buyers, need to exercise care and caution too while doing business with these unknown online businesses. It may not be possible for many to out rightly spot a fake online business, but we could at least establish reasons that would avoid us from dealing with it. 

For those selling products through Facebook accounts, it is important to check the authenticity of the accounts because opening a fake Facebook account is not arduous. Check whether they have proper contact information or details. We can also try to find out whether an online business is reputable by trying to find anyone among our friends, family, colleagues, and contacts, who know about that particular online business. Searching for reviews before purchasing is important.

Further, with most online businesses operating on a pre-order basis, where one has to pay half of the total cost to confirm the order or make full payment before delivery, buyers need to ensure that there is adequate information about delivery and other policies such as the refund policy, terms and conditions, and even cash-on-delivery payment option.

The sensible thing is to deal only if a business appears legit. Just because a product is so good or it is so cheap, let us not forget the safe rule to verify before making any rushed payments. 

Doing business online is helpful for consumers looking to get the best deal and find products and services that are not available at local establishments. However, consumers who do business online must be careful to avoid scams and unreliable companies. Always do your research before you give money or personal information to an Internet business.

Opinion by Ugyen Choden, from Thimphu