As social distancing becomes part of the fight against COVID -19, people are staying home and running their errands online instead. However, online shopping comes with certain risks. We share some tips on staying safe when buying online.

E-commerce scams have been the most common in Singapore with the proliferation of online shopping options and social media platforms. It is important to understand how these platforms operate to verify sellers and the use of payment protection, and quality of reviews.

Reputable shopping websites verify seller’s identification.

Qoo10 requires seller’s registration with a payment of between 100 and 500 dollars, and they take a commission off sales. They also require sellers to submit personal documents like bank statements and copies of their Identity Card.

The higher commitment may deter individuals out to make a quick buck.

In terms of payment protection, Qoo10 has an escrow payment service in which payment is held by Qoo10 Escrow Service until the buyer has confirmed the receipt as well as the good condition of the order.

This offers buyers protection as money is held by Qoo10 until the goods are delivered.

Popular marketplace Carousell operates on a different system. It allows individuals to register and sell directly to buyers through a series of negotiations. However, many scams have occurred on Carousell for a few reasons.

First is the lack of seller verification – anyone can sell without paying a fee.

Secondly, although they now offer an escrow payment service through Carousell protection, many sellers and buyers transact out of the app through WhatsApp and PayNow.

Our tip is still to make use of the buyer protection service available on Carousell. Avoid making funds transfers for pre-orders or transactions, and meet up to collect the goods if the seller does not use Carousell protection.

Shopee allows individuals and businesses to register. Shopee Mall is only available to registered businesses as sellers have to submit their business registration documents where Shopee will verify the authenticity of their products.

If you are looking to buy genuine products, head to Shopee Mall and the brands’ official stores to make sure you are getting the real deal!

They also have Shopee Guarantee which is an escrow payment to ensure orders are successfully fulfilled before escrow is released to the seller within a time frame.

Our tip is to be mindful of Shopee’s guarantee period. If you have not received your order, you can extend the guarantee period by 3 days but if you forget, payment will be released to the seller.

Lazada allows both individuals and registered businesses to sell on their platform, and they take a commission off sales.

They have a 14-day return policy and if you are not satisfied with your product. In terms of payment protection, Lazada also uses escrow payment like most major shopping sites. Lazada’s payment protection policy refunds unauthorised amounts made from your Lazada wallet or saved credit or debit card.

Our top tip for shopping on Lazada is to keep your purchases and communication within the app. Even if the product turns out to be fake you can request for a refund. To avoid this, shop on Lazmall as it guarantees only authentic products. If not, they will refund the user double the price.

Another tip is to look at the quantity and quality of reviews.

If a seller A only has a couple of good reviews and a bad one, and seller B has hundreds of good ones, it might be more reliable to buy from seller B.

Some tips to spot a fake review is to look at the timing of the reviews and look for repeated phrases.

Homegrown e-commerce platform Ezbuy offers to ship products not available locally. You can buy your favourite instant noodles from Taiwan and cosmetics from the US. Payment is made to sellers directly and Ezbuy charges a shipping fee.

Escrow payment is not available on this platform, but our tip is to purchase insurance at 3 per cent of product value (capped at 60 dollars) if your product is expensive. If anything happens to your package, they will offer full compensation capped at 2000 dollars.

Hopefully, these tips will help you shop online safely during these times!

This is part of the SG United Content Series supported by IMDA. Let’s stay hopeful and stay united! #SGUnited #StayHealthyGoDigital.