Online shopping in Kenya has really grown in the last few years. And with that growth, so have incidents of online scams, frauds and shopping cons. This guide will take you through steps that you can take to avoid such when buying items online. Whether you are buying from websites like Jumia or Kilimall, or an online vendor on social media like Instagram or Facebook.
We can agree that shopping online in Kenya has become a convenient way to buy goods and services. Just pick up your phone and launch an app, or open your browser on your computer and you are in.
There was a time when it was easy to spot a shady deal, shop or business. Take for example; if the deal was happening in a dark alley, then this would raise red flags.
Or if it’s a busy day in town and hawkers have set up their cardboard stands along the paved streets, chances are if you buy from them, there is a high possibility they will not be there the next day. Not only that but also when the item you buy, be it a dress or phone charger doesn’t fit or work as described, returning it to that hawker will be out of the question.
With physical shops, it is straightforward.
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The challenges online shopping poses in Kenya
What happens then when it comes to online shops? Especially shops, stalls, and vibandas set up on popular social media apps like Instagram and Facebook.
A statista report on ecommerce, show that ‘Revenue in the eCommerce market is projected to reach US$1,003m in 2020′. And with the increase in connectivity and affordable access to internet-enabled devices, this number is bound to keep growing.
What has contributed to this increase is social media dukas. I am sure we have an idea of what they are or could be, and they flourish on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
So how will you protect yourself from getting scammed or conned while shopping online?
Take for example Susan’s experience that I came across on an article by Nairobi news, ideally titled, ‘Beware of the nightmare that is online shopping in Kenya.‘
She had spotted and ordered a dress for a friends wedding she was to attend. Taking advantage of the convenience and options online shopping offers, this dress was to be delivered to her in Machakos. However, the events that transpired after she ordered her dress was nothing short of a drama worthy of a heist movie.
The problem is, with every opportunity, there are also individuals who want to take advantage of well-meaning people. We know this all too well. That is why the team at saidia has prepared a complete guide on how to avoid being scammed and conned when shopping online.
Types of online shopping fraud and scams
This is the most popular form of online shopping fraud. I am not too sure if we have become complicit because getting the original product can be quite expensive, or is it that fake goods are very well counterfeited.
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The biggest challenge comes about when the end-user isn’t aware that they are being sold fake goods and they end up being fooled. Take for example the below video comparing a real and fake iPhone 6. Would you have been able to tell the difference?
Lack of delivery of goods paid for or ordered
Another form of online shopping scam is the straight-up lack of delivery of goods after you have made payment.
Imagine paying for your product and it is never delivered! How frustrating is that?
In Susan’s case earlier, if you read the full story, this is what transpired. Trying to recover your money in such a situation can be very difficult.
That is why it’s very important that you have the knowledge that will enable you to avoid falling for such online frauds.
Fake discount gift cards and coupons
Ever heard of a deal that’s too good to be true?
Here is an example; ‘Take the bellow survey and stand the chance to win an iPhone or laptop gift card!’
More often than not, there will be no iPhone or laptop gift card. Be very careful when filling in your information for a reward.
Now you have a feel of popular online shopping scams. So how do you avoid becoming a victim of such? Below are a few tips that can be of help.
10 tips to avoid scams and cons shopping online in Kenya
To safeguard yourself and your hard-earned cash from these online fraudsters, here are 10 tips to avoid scams and cons when shopping online in Kenya.
Does the shop have a physical store, office or P.O Box?
More often than not, if a vendor selling their wares online has a physical store, it is less likely that they’ll be out to con or scam you. At the end of the day, you will be able to track them and take the necessary measures to recover your money.
Insist on them sharing their location, whether a shop, stall or where they are trading from.
Do they have an Mpesa buy goods or paybill number
Yes, so now you are ready to pay for that killer shoe or hot dress, and you have to ask that question, “Nitume wapi, kwa hii number?”
Well, it’s a common thing we do. However to avoid scams and being conned, ask for a paybill number. A business that has gone the extra mile to register an M-pesa paybill number for online transactions shows they take their business seriously.
In case anything goes wrong, there is a third party involved, Safaricom. Here you can fungua roho on any injustice done after paying.
Ask and insist on proof of goods
This means that you ask the IG or FB store to send you a recent raw pic of the product that you are buying. Raw meaning, taken directly from their phone i.e. not a screenshot or download from the internet. Insist that they provide a way to confirm the date the photo was taken e.g. next to the day’s newspaper.
Yes, this sounds a bit excessive and like a scene from a hostage movie. But just like a hostage movie, if you don’t take precautions, your money will be held hostage.
Check if the online shop/store has a website
When a store invests in a website, it means they really took the time, effort and money to solidify their presence online.
This is because unlike Facebook and Instagram pages, setting up a website is not free. It costs a substantial amount of money. A store that has a website wants to establish authority in its trading space and by doing this gain trust with potential clients.
As an extra measure, ensure that the website is secured using SSL. This means that every transaction or interaction you carry out on that page is encrypted and very hard to hack.
What is an SSL certificate:
Also in case of any issues arising when it comes to goods bought, a website has information on how to contact the owner of the business.
Confirm that the shop has a return goods policy
What is a returned goods policy?
This defines how the seller of the goods and the customer will handle any need for the items bought to be returned to the shop and a full or partial refund given. Here is an example of return policy from Jumia Kenya.
The best shops to deal with are shops that have one in place that clearly defines when and why the goods can be returned. Also, make sure you confirm on their social media page what their goods returned policy is. When buying a product from them, don’t hesitate to ask for one.
If they don’t have one, be very cautious.
Make sure they have shared their contact information
A page that doesn’t have a mobile number or an email address raises a very big red flag. That limits you to only being able to contact them through their D.M’s which they can readily ignore.
That is an online con waiting to happen.
Also, ensure to cross-check the number using truecaller to see whether it has been marked as spam. This can be a lifesaver. And the good thing is, the truecaller app is free to download.
Check reviews and comments to avoid online shopping fraud
Listen, reviews and comments are your friends! They can save you a lot of heartaches later. Trust me.
Take the time to read through reviews by other buyers and comments left by other users. Be keen to note the tone of replies by both the person managing the page and the users who are interacting with the page.
Taking the time to do this could be the difference between money well spent and money thrown down the drain.
The consistency of posting on social media, Facebook and Instagram
How often do they post on their page?
The answer is if they do it less than you do, then there is a problem! Wouldn’t you agree?
Most IG and Facebook pages post between one and two times a day. If the last time a page that sells online via Facebook or Instagram exclusively posted was over a week or a month ago, just prepare to be conned.
Consistency in posting goes a long way to show how committed the online store is.
Confirm and double-check your online order
This should have been the first point to cover, but we shall handle it last. It is important to check and then double-check your order. This is to make sure it’s exactly what you want to pay for.
Very personal items such as shoes and clothes are rarely returnable. So make sure you order the right size to avoid having to fight with the store on whether they are conning you or not by not taking back the shoes you bought for that night out with the girls.
If still in doubt, ask for a copy of their ID
Yes, we are not taking chances here. Although if by this point you still want to buy from them, then it definitely is not worth it. However, to be safe, ask the Instagram store owner to send you a copy of their ID. Better safe than sorry.
So, we have downloaded all the wisdom that we have on the matter. Hope this article proves to be helpful to you. Also feel free to share it with a friend on either Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Twitter.
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