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Online shopping provides a fast, convenient platform for purchasing items without the hassle of driving to a store. However, scammers often take advantage of the popularity of the online retail industry, sending purchased products that are either not what was advertised or far inferior to what was advertised. A recent report by Buzzfeed found overseas-based sites like Zaful, SammyDress, DressLily and RoseGal are regular offenders. Some sites steal images from other high-end sites or magazines in order to make their products appear to be better quality or make it seem as though their company has celebrity spokespeople wearing their items. Consumers are often lured by this into ordering the website’s clothing, only to receive a product that bears very little resemblance to the advertised image.

A major recent target of these online retail scams? High school girls looking for prom dresses. According to a report by Today News, many high-end prom dresses sell for hundreds of dollars, allowing scammers to target budget-conscious students and parents.

Recently, two members of the U.S. Senate called on the Federal Trade Commission to take action, urging the FTC to work more closely with its Chinese consumer protection counterparts in ensuring product quality and fair advertisement practices.

What can consumers do to ensure they get what they pay for when ordering online? Our office offers the following advice:

  • If a product is listed at an unbelievably low price, be wary. Keep in mind, a deal that seems too good to be true probably is.
  • Read reviews from other customers to find out what their experiences with ordering through the website have been like. Did they get the clothes on time? Was the material good quality? Did the item fit true to size?
  • Check if the website has refund return options. Most legitimate companies have a detailed policy listed. It’s important to understand these options before you buy.
  • If the website is offering discounted name-brand clothing, call the company directly and ask if the website you are thinking of buying through is an authorized dealer.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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