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Spotting, recognising and preventing scams and scammers

Spotting scams, recognising scammers and prevent being scammed

If you have been online recently you have more than likely seen an advert for Temu, an online discount selling platform similar to Wish, the successful Chinese discount selling platform. The aggressive advertising of Temu got me to thinking that maybe times were changing for online craft selling, into a situation where little Etsy shops like mine cannot compete with such mammoths. I started to research down scaling my Etsy and splitting my wares equally between Etsy and my website. Before such a drastic decision a bit of investigation was needed as to why the selling platform is so quiet!

As the sales on Etsy have dropped right down it was clear there was a problem with the platform. Last year was five times busier at this time. (Personally my Etsy is doing just fine, though it has been very noticeable that new customers are few and far between, and if it hadn't been for my 'repeaters' I would have been in trouble. To folks who have supported me this season, bless you and thank you!) I checked my shop was visible and it was great to see many of my listings within the first few slots of a search. Knowing everything was working I then went

on the Etsy Sellers forums and was surprised by the amount of posts expressing concerns because it seemed as if Etsy was 'switched off' as many people stated.

As I dug deeper it was very clear that the problem was much greater and went far beyond Etsy. It has been noticed by many that recently there has been a huge influx of fake shops across all platforms, all selling the same mass produced crap from China. I love cheap stuff from China, 'Wish' is fabulous and I do recommend it, but the purpose of these fake shops on reputable selling platforms have the sole purpose to make big money selling tat. People who once shopped with confidence on sites deemed reputable who have then been scammed, are not going to trust the site again,

I believe the reputation of Etsy has been damaged recently and I know I have lost a few customers because of it! They ran a program where sellers' money was put on hold for several months making the funds unavailable. This was reported in the news making it common knowledge. I received messages asking if I sold on any other platform, which I don't, and I've not heard from those folks since. However this couldn't explain the severe nosedive in shop activity because as I just mentioned, Etsy seemed to be 'switched off' as if there were no new shoppers out there.

There is also the issue of the increased number of shops that have opened since lockdown. It seems everyone opened a shop whilst they were sat at home, but many didn't realise the complexity of accurate listings, keeping to delivery schedules and offering a high quality customer service in order to create happy customers. Subsequently there were many failures which down the line affects successful shops. People buying online who have a bad experience are not going to return as the platform name becomes tarnished and all other shops then get painted with the same brush.

The above line of photographs show the rating of four online stores on Trustpilot. It has to be remembered that many people leave reviews on the actual shop they purchase from, and only really angry people make it onto review sites. For example my personal experiences do not reflect the ratings for Etsy and I was very surprised by this terrible rating. I wonder if all the good reviews get posted on the actual shops rather than Trustpilot, suggesting these Etsy figures reflect how many people got nowhere with Etsy and so vented on Trustpilot. I think this rating would be very different if all reviews were in one place and so good reviews sit with the bad. Besides, who would view Etsy in Trustpilot when you can read the individual shops review with the listing you're interested in?

As surprised by the poor Etsy rating I am equally surprised by the high Wish rating. Not that I dislike Wish, to me the ratings reflect my experiences, it's fabulous for craft supplies, but I have to wonder why people post so many good reviews when they can also do it on the actual shop itself. Etsy folk don't seem to post a high percentage of good reviews, so why do the Wish folk? These two examples of a poor Etsy and a high Wish rating has to be questioned, and I rather would rely on individual shop ratings than the platform itself

Scams and scammers

As a seller the biggest scam right now is messages sent asking for your email address (see my phone screenshot below as I just received one). The scammers look like Etsy so you think it is safe. Once they have your email I think all sorts of bad happens, though I've not looked into it**. Basic internet safety always tells you never to give out your info. There are also the professional buyers who say an item hasn't arrived when it has, so they get a refund and the item. This is an old scam and luckily I've never experienced it.

**EDIT: I have just read they go onto Paypal and empty your account!

As a buyer it seems there are a large amount of shops that open and close really quickly, then reopen under a different name so they can keep the funds for fake goods not sent out. These shops generally sell mass made stuff from China of very poor quality disguised as handmade items. Beware of new shops with high sales and lots of reviews. Of course some genuine new shops do brilliantly from the off, but they will stand out as being fabulous with beautiful photos and great descriptions. A shop with blurry, pixelated photos must be avoided as usually they are copy and pasted photos from somewhere else. There is a difference between a poor photo and one that is imported from elsewhere.

Spotting a scam becomes easier once you know what to look for. Look through the reviews of a shop to check they seem genuine. Long descriptive reviews at random times is a good indication of a genuine shop. If there is suddenly a huge stash of reviews for different items it would suggest the shop may have bought reviews- yes, that's a scam too! Lots of reviews for one item is to be expected if something is discovered and takes off with great success. Read the quality of the reviews too, bought reviews tend to be quite short and samey, whereas a true review will have individualism and consist of more than a few words. Below is a genuine review I got and expresses genuine love, (for the drafty below!)

SPEC-TACULAR Perfect, artistic, beautiful, and useful. Cat was a greater than usual

communicator, getting me what I needed and wanted in a gift for my favourite Red Hat Society

lady. The artistry is perfect and personal, thanks Cat for providing me with the perfect gift.

Selling online, specifically handmade goods as that is my market, has become very tricky of late. There are so many factors to consider both economical and political with people struggling for money and wars on all sides. It's not a great time out there right now and so I am grateful I've had a good year. I am very aware of the scams and scammers that seem to be growing in numbers. Desperate times create desperate people and so I do see scams and scammers persisting.

There are certain things to look out for when buying handmade online.

  1. An established shop is a good sign, with great reviews spanned over time, with wonderful photographs and descriptive descriptions

  2. Check all of the shop, is there info in the 'About' section explaining how the shop started etc? Are there production photos, always a good sign, but not a bad sign if there's none, not everyone shows how their wares are made

  3. If you find a new shop without any sales or reviews, you could be their first sale. If there's any doubt, send them a message. A genuine new shop will have all the time in the world to chat as they search for that first sale. Remember too that people may be at work and unable to reply straight away. A delayed reply should come with an apology, maybe. I would!

  4. Check shop policies. Each is set individually by the shop, not by the platform

  5. Any problems with a shop contact them through the selling platform. In many cases an issue might be a simple mistake which can be easily rectified. A good customer service should keep you confident that your shop choice was a good choice, squashing any worries. In a hurry once I crossed labelled two parcels. It worked out OK though as they both bought the mistaken parcels and I sent out the correct ones with upgraded postage!

  6. If you have a problem and the shop does not reply it may be necessary to take the matter further. Personally I contact a shop three times over a week and if no joy I would escalate the issue to the platform for them to sort.

Selling online can be stressful, though I have to be honest I have not had any real problems, touch wood! (Did you know 'touch wood' or actually knocking on wood is an ancient Indo-Europeans, or possibly people who predated them, who believed that trees were home to various spirits. 'Knocking on wood' may also come from Medieval England referred to people who spoke in secrecy)

The horror stories I have heard are horrific of people having all sorts of problems. Looking generally across all suitable selling platforms it appears that the same problems are occurring everywhere which would suggest that selling trends have changed and these scammers are going all out to destroy the reputations of great platforms and shops. With aggressive marketing from foreign platforms offering free shipping, huge discounts and very cheap prices there is no way independent shops can compete. Of course I don't think these companies with millions to invest in advertising will last for too long and once they make their buck they will be gone, no doubt to be replaced by the next one of the same ilk.

I definitely wonder how all this is going to play out. I shop regularly on Wish and Ebay and have never had any problems, but there is definitely shifts in the way selling platforms perform, and it's not for the good. From my research it is quite clear that Etsy is fine for now, I like the platform as I have an established shop with a great following. It is clear all platforms seem to be turning into Ebay's where anything can be sold. Some craft platforms ask for membership fees Not on the High Street does and I think this is a good idea as only genuine shops would use the platform, serious crafters serious about their craft! If Etsy decided to do membership fees I would think it a great idea, thinning the shops considerably and therefore reducing the amount of tat and scams potential buyers have to trawl through!

LEFT As I write this blog I got this message through my Etsy shop. Initially it caused me 3 seconds of terrifying anguish until I quickly noticed the icon, plus it quickly sank in that this was a scam because all messages from Etsy do not use the same channel as for customers. The app doesn't allow you to mark these as spam, but the laptop does and so it was binned.

With over 5.8 million shops worldwide Etsy is easily the biggest selling platform for crafted goodies and despite all of its problems it's the best of a bad bunch. In the new year I am going to start creating my own shop on my website. I shall split one-offs such as Drafties, Hares and Birdies onto both selling sites and of course cards can be listed on both. Once the shop is full I will upgrade my website so it can take payments and make my website shop live. All of my website listings will advise you to check out the 600 plus 5*reviews I have on Etsy. I will not have fees to pay on sales through my website like I do with Etsy (12% of the sale including postage!!), so I can offer my wares slightly cheaper, thus encouraging folks to return to my website instead of Etsy.

The research for this blog has been a little bit of an eye opener. It made me realise I go about in a little bubble, rarely having any issues or problems, but in actual fact there is so much that can go wrong. I have read that people have even started videoing themselves packing things, so when a customer says things are missing, the shop can pull up a video. WT*? I do take photographs of the parcel and address label which I send as proof of posting, but personally I think in part it depends on what you sell, which determines what sort of people you attract.

Scammers are so easy to spot these days as there are so many of them, you have to wonder why they bother, but I guess there's always some poor soul who gets caught out. Sorting the good from the bad is challenging and keeping to a 'reputable' selling platform will offer you some protection where your finances are concerned, but things that don't turn up, or are not as they should be, can lead to disappointment and a mad rush to find a replacement. I am fully aware I am at the mercy of the postal service which is of course out of the hands of the seller. Again though, I've not had any real problems with the post, I think just 3 things have never shown up.

I would say it is a time to be extra cautious when shopping online. I hope this blog helps, it only covers a few examples as I could writw a book on it. Good luck and be careful out there.

Festive Blessings!

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1 Comment

Dec 09, 2023

Very interesting article.

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