What to Do if a Website Scams You

Doing business online as a buyer or seller can be risky either way, but especially if you're the buyer. As a consumer, you should only buy products online from companies you know of and that are credible and have a good reputation. But with that being said, it's understandable if you've made the mistake of doing otherwise and purchased from a shady company or one you've never heard of before. We've all made this mistake and if everybody only purchased items from large well-known companies, how would the little guys ever make it and how would the business world ever be fair for them? Despite this, let's say one of the little guys you dealt with is acting suspicious or you're sure they ripped you off or scammed you, what can you do? Well it's not always possible to stop the bad guys from taking your money online or carrying out a scam, but there's a few steps you can take that can definitely increase your chances of getting your money back.

Contact Them
The first thing you should do before anything else is to contact the company who you suspect may have ripped you off. Sometimes, a little communication goes a long way. I can't count how many times I've seen a person buy something from a website or on eBay, then the item doesn't arrive on time or something is different than what they thought they ordered, so they jump to conclusions and automatically assume they were ripped off, without talking to the website owner or seller. It's always important to try to discuss things with them first to make sure there are no misunderstandings. They may offer you a refund or a voucher if you complain and express your disappointment or let them know there was a mix-up. Sometimes, packages are late and unless you paid for an extra expedited service, it's not always the website owner's fault, but more of the package carrier's fault. But on the other hand, you shouldn't wait too long to take formal action against a website if you don't hear a response back from them. I'd usually give them 24 hours I contact them on a weekday and the next day is also a weekday. If you contact them on a Friday or on a Saturday or Sunday, you should at least wait until Monday since many website owners have lives too and take weekends off like many other businesses do.

Report Them to the ICCC
If you've contacted the people who you think may have ripped you off, and they either haven't responded or you're unhappy with their response, you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center if you think it's a matter for law enforcement. To do this, you can visit their website at www.ic3.gov and fill out a complaint form and submit it to them. Keep in mind, they are not your local police, but actually work with the FBI to catch scammers online. Your local police would most likely turn the case over to them anyways. If you decide to file a report with the ICCC, they will investigate your claim and take legal action, and then they may contact you to let you know how you can be reimbursed for your loss, if it's possible. Whenever you contact them, you probably shouldn't let the website owner who scammed you know what you're up to, because the ICCC sometimes do undercover stings online and you may be disrupting that and allowing the criminal to destroy evidence or avoid being caught by taking down their website or selling their domain name. Just keep in mind that filing a report with the ICCC is similar to filing a police report, and it's illegal to falsify a police report. So you should really make sure all the details you give them will check out and tell the truth.

Report Them to Local Law Enforcement
Now let's say you also want to report them to their local law enforcement or police as well, but don't know which country the website owner is actually located in, what do you do? Well in this situation, it may be best to just rely on the ICCC to do this work for you, but if you insist on contacting their local law enforcement, or are just curious to find out where the scam company's headquarters are, you can perform what's known as a Whois search. With a Whois search, you can see who owns the domain name, their address or company's address, as well as other contact information that they may have made available when they bought and registered the domain name. To perform a Whois search, you can simply type "whois" into any search engine and you'll find a bunch of free sites that allow you to do this by entering the domain name into a search form. The only problem with this is that if a scammer really knows what they're doing, they will either give false information to the domain registry, so a fake name and address show up, or they will make their information private so you can't see anything, other than which domain registrar they purchased the domain from. In this case, you could probably contact the domain registrar and let them know that one of the domain names is being used to scam people, but most of them will probably tell you to contact law enforcement or the ICCC instead, so this may be pointless.

Report Them to the BBB
If you know for a fact that the website owner's company is located in the United States or Canada, you can report them to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB doesn't necessarily do much, other than keep a list of companies that are reputable or non-reputable, but by doing this, you may be helping others in the future from getting ripped off, since many people check the BBB before doing business with a company. You may also be helping your own situation by bringing more attention to the website in question. Eventually, if a company gets lots of complaints with the BBB, someone important in law enforcement is going to notice and make sure action is taken against the company to shut them down.

Report Them to Ripoff Report
Ripoff Report is similar to the BBB, in that it keeps a list of non-reputable companies. The main difference is that Ripoff Report is strictly for websites online that may be scams, and it's a very high-ranking website in search engine search results. So if you lodge a complaint against the site that scammed you, many other people searching the internet may see your complaint if they search for the name of that company in Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This doesn't really help your situation out, but if you want to help others and keep them from being ripped off like you were, this is a good way to get the word out. You can also check other complaints from people, and maybe if you get a bunch of people together who have all been scammed, you can get a lawyer to file a class-action lawsuit against the website that wronged you.

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