Is Shopping on Social Media Safe?

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  • Many social media platforms have their own shopping platforms.
  • These platforms provide secure, encrypted payments, but social networks could share your purchase history with advertisers.
  • Counterfeits and low-quality products are also common issues to watch out for.

It's safe from a payment perspective, but make sure you're ordering from a reputable store first.

Social media is always evolving. One of the biggest recent developments is platforms allowing businesses to offer shops on their accounts. If you see something you like while scrolling through your feed, you may be able to buy it right then and there.

It's always good to be cautious about putting sensitive information online. You might be wondering if it's really safe to plug in your credit card number on, say, Facebook or Instagram. Although their payment platforms are secure to use, there are some important things to know before shopping on social media.

Don't give out too much information when shopping on social media

Shopping on social media is generally safe in the sense that your payment information is protected. Social media platforms with their own checkout systems encrypt payment information to prevent anyone from stealing your card number. They also have purchase protection policies that cover buyers if a merchant doesn't fulfill an order.

It's worth noting that those purchase protection policies only apply if you make the purchase on the social network. If you visit a merchant's website and make the purchase there, then purchase protection doesn't apply.

Even with these protections, there are still some additional measures you can take to make yourself even more secure:

  • Always pay with a credit card when shopping online. If you have any issues with the order and the merchant isn't helpful, you can dispute the transaction.
  • Use a virtual credit card number. Several popular credit cards offer this feature, which allows you to generate a temporary card number and avoid providing your actual card number. If you don't have a card that offers this, there are also virtual card services online.

In addition, social media networks are known for collecting user data and selling it to advertisers. When you buy products on social networks, you're giving them more data on your shopping and spending habits. If you're concerned about these networks having too much information on you, then you may want to avoid using their shopping services.

Watch out for fakes and shabby products

Social media shopping platforms are hotbeds for scammers, and there are a few scams that are especially common.

The first is counterfeit products. These are prohibited, as you'd expect. But social networks are far from 100% successful at keeping fake items off their shopping platforms. This year, there have been numerous complaints of fake goods being sold on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Another frequent complaint is low-quality products. For example, plenty of so-called boutiques on Instagram will claim they offer designer clothes, when they're actually reselling cheap items purchased from Chinese fast fashion brands like Shein. These stores usually don't offer refunds, either, so their many dissatisfied customers have no recourse.

How can you avoid a purchase you regret? Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  • Research shops you're not familiar with. Look them up online and read the reviews and comments. If there's not much information out there, or you find some complaints, avoid buying from that store.
  • If the comments are disabled, it's probably a scam. Reputable stores want customers to comment. When a store doesn't allow comments, it's because those comments aren't going to be good.
  • Do a reverse image search on product images. If the product is available on other websites, a reverse image search could help you see where else it's available and at what price.
  • Stay away from designer goods. Counterfeit fashion is extremely popular with scammers. You're better off buying these products from trusted stores.

What's most important is doing your homework before you buy and not rushing into a purchase. Don't feel pressured because there's a limited-time discount. These are usually just sales tactics stores use to get you to buy now. And if you want to make sure you don't have any issues, only buy from brands you recognize on social media.

Our Research Expert

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