Often, new Internet shop owners are concerned that unscrupulous buyers will purchase an item, and then under false pretenses return the item, and once it arrives the shop owner discovers the item is not the item they sold and shipped. More experienced online dealers have stated they feel the old ‘switcheroo’ scam is actually an urban legend and that it doesn’t’t really occur, because it has never happened to them.
The truth is, such fraudulent substitutions are rare, especially if you take into account the enormous volume of selling activity on the Internet, but it does happen. Much like shoplifters in the brick and mortar world, disreputable buyers will try to take advantage of you, but there are steps you can take to make sure you have the necessary recorded information to dispute a return should this happen to you.
Photos – Lots of Them
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from a fraudulent return is to supply each listing with multiple photos of the item, make that your own photos. As most of us who sell online know, some Internet dealers are quite adept at lifting a photo (“borrowing”) from someone else’s listing of the same type item and using it as their “own” especially if their item was originally mass-produced and similar examples exist. Let us be clear, “borrowing” is not good, and is definitely not a practice you should engage in. Most e-commerce sites have the ability to include several images in a listing. Take advantage of this. Not only will multiple images from a variety of angles help sell an item, it will also provide the necessary documentation of an items individual characteristics should you need them to dispute a fraudulent return.
For instance, a listing of a cup should provide a picture of the front, a picture of the back, the bottom of the cup and close ups of any makers marks. And also, the inside of the cup, the rim, any visible stains, cracks or repairs, a tight close up of the handle, and any other pertinent features or flaws. So a listing for a cup could easily require a minimum of five pictures. And the pictures should visually agree with the item’s written description, whether is states the item has no chips, cracks or repairs anywhere on the cup or just the opposite.
An unscrupulous person may have another example of the same cup for which the handle was broken off and glued back on, or perhaps they have an example with a chip on the rim. It isn’t’t likely that this person is going to want to buy your perfect cup in order to try to substitute a chipped or damaged piece, because the excellent condition of your own, clearly illustrated in your photographs prior to sale, is too apparent. These kinds of people tend to seek a good item whose presale condition is poorly illustrated, because this makes the swap scam easier to perpetrate, and much more difficult for the seller to prove otherwise.
We understand that many shop owners may be accustomed to offering only a single picture, or maybe two, because other venues with which they are familiar charge additional fees for additional pictures. But if the venue you are currently listing with does not charge a per picture fee, then take advantage of this. Adequate visual representation is an essential selling tool, necessary to help buyers make informed decisions, as well as a potential safety feature for the seller. Pictures are important.
We also recommend that you maintain pictures of a sold item for reference until after it is clear a return is not going to be initiated. Preferably, original images should be maintained online, in your shop, but if not, keep copies in your own computer. This is just good common sense.