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China Daily Website

Shoppers urged to raise awareness to avoid Web scam

Updated: 2012-08-15 01:36
By CAO YIN and ZHENG JINRAN ( China Daily)

Ge Yulan has been anxious since she made an online purchase last weekend.

The 26-year-old mother in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, paid 146 yuan ($23) for two clothing items for her baby at a store on Taobao, a major online shopping platform, on Saturday.

A woman claiming to be an after-sales service worker for the online shop called Ge that afternoon, saying the shop failed to receive her payment due to a technical problem. She asked Ge to send the money again.

"I knew little about paying online, so I believed her," Ge said. "I was told to input my ID card number and my bank account on a Web page.”

Several minutes later, however, Ge received a text message notifying her that all of the money in her bank account, about 19,000 yuan, has been transferred to another account in Nanjing, hundreds of kilometers from her hometown.

"I called the shop but they said they never called me or disclosed my information to others," she said. Shop workers told Ge that someone may have stolen her information.

"It’s all the savings for my family’s past eight months," she said. "I called the police, but they said it is almost impossible to get my money back.”

Ge is one of millions of online shoppers who have been scammed.

As of December, there were around 500 million Chinese netizens. Nearly 200 million of them have shopped online, according to a report by China Electronic Commerce Association.

At least 30.8 billion yuan was stolen from more than 60 million netizens last year after they bought goods online, the report said.

It said customers are often cheated by exaggerated advertisements for online shops.

Kou Fei, a 24-year-old Beijing resident who likes to shop online, said she became more careful after a dress she bought from a Taobao store looked totally different from the online image.

"The normal price for this style of dress in authorized brick-and-mortar shops might be more than 200 yuan, but the same style was sold for only 35 yuan online," Kou said, adding that she was attracted by the low price.

E-commerce experts said many Internet retailers selling pirated goods use pictures from authorized stores’ websites to advertise their products.

Kou said many online retailers pledge to exchange products that have quality issues within seven days, but they seldom admit there are problems and often ignore customers’ messages.

Qiu Baochang, head of the lawyers group for the China Consumers’ Association, said customers have difficulty distinguishing fake websites from real ones.

Many websites, including some popular ones, are still far from trustworthy and often sell fake or low-quality products, he added.

Qiu’s comments were echoed by Liu Junhai, vice-chairman of the consumers’ association.

Liu said many people use the Internet to steal money, "but they’re unlikely to be punished because of a lack of a regulation on e-commerce”.

Online retailers who post exaggerated advertisements or sell fake products face minor penalties, since most customers do not report these cases to police, he added.

Mo Daiqing, a researcher from China E-Commerce Research Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said consumers can expect new regulations governing e-commerce by the end of this year, but people should not rely on regulations to avoid online fraud.

"Consumers should enhance their awareness and select online shops that accept cash-on-delivery payment.”

According to statistics from Taobao, it received more than 8.7 million complaints on the goods bought on the website and levied more than 700,000 punishments on shop owners who were found in violations of its rules in 2011.

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