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  • Writer's pictureAngela Chu

E-Commerce Fraud

Online shopping is nothing new. Unless in a place without an internet connection, shopping online for items is common practice. Today, online shopping is a routine for shoppers. From clothing to technology to furniture, it seems as though the online marketplace is something too good to be true. Consumers have millions if not billions of items to choose from. But with the good, comes the bad. Due to the increase in online shopping, e-commerce scams have been on the rise.

Many shoppers trust the reviews to help them determine whether or not they’ll purchase a product. This means a low rating can make sales diminish. Even a one-star difference in rating can undermine revenue. In fact, CBC Marketplace’s study shows that an extra star can make profits increase by 9%! CBC Marketplace also interviewed a few shoppers to study whether or not shoppers trust the reviews. Everyone they asked said they trust reviews more than advertising! But the truth is, the review system is broken. The details in the reviews may give the review some verisimilitude. But the awful truth is, around 14% of the reviews are fake. In fact, there’s a whole industry for fake reviews. There is a website called “Fiverr” that offers a wide range of different services. Some services include programming, graphic design, translation, but more importantly, writing reviews. This is a “for hire” website meaning that whoever needs a fake review can pay someone to write one. On Fiverr, the price is $5, hence the website name. So, if a business wants a better online reputation, they could simply hire people to give them a good review. So you may be thinking... Wouldn’t it be obvious that the review is fake? No. In fact, the CBC marketplace study shows that most people couldn’t tell which review was fake when asked to identify between two reviews. To combat this problem, a professor at Cornell University developed a program to help decipher whether a review is authentic. The algorithm works by examining the language used. This is because the language differs greatly. Reviews that are fake usually tell a story because the reviewer is telling a story of how they assume things would be. The real reviews simply describe the experience. Yelp, a popular reviewing website, has also developed an algorithm to detect and remove fake reviews.

Unfortunately, the forgery doesn’t end there. Reviews aren’t the only things that are fake. In fact, an entire business may be fake! Fake businesses have arisen due to the popularity of shopping online. Fake businesses fake an online presence by using photoshop to doctor convincing photos, create fake social media accounts as well as unauthentic websites. To make the illusion of authenticity, they will pay for fake likes and views to inflate the count and make the numbers look more convincing to lure in potential customers.

Due to the pandemic, many people have been browsing the internet resulting in a rapid increase in online shopping. But with the rise in shopping, there has also been an increase in fraud. A popular scam that usually victimizes small businesses is the “never received” fraud. This is when someone claims they never received the item they ordered but the dirty truth is that they never ordered it in the first place. Scammers usually push the blame over to the shipping company and lie that it probably got lost in the mail. This type of fraud severely harms small businesses. With small businesses being the backbone of the economy, it would be much more beneficial for all if fraudsters halted their deceiving ways.

Alas, we do not live in a perfect world. There will always be bad contrasting the good. Thankfully, the opposite is still true. In a modern world where fraudsters use the internet and technology against us, we will have to learn to improve ourselves to prevent these actions from happening again.

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