How can you detect a fake web store and how do you get your money back?

Sometimes a web store seems too good to be true. Such as one that promised my son it could sell him an extremely rare record – one he’d been hunting down for weeks. Turns out that it was a fake web store.

So, fresh from the raw experience of going through the claim-back experience, here are the signs to look out for and how to get your money back.

Sign one: it’s too good to be true

Okay, obvious. But sometimes we see something so tempting we put away our suspicion antennae. It’s too easy to set up a fake web store that promises people the world.

Sign two: the site is too new

Fake sites tend to pop up briefly before they can be flagged as dubious. That means they tend to be registered and built quickly. In the case of my son’s site, it was set up in late August. He ordered the product in early September.

spot web store

So how can you tell? The handy site Head there, enter the URL and see when it was registered.

Sign three: Google your heart out

My son found out that the web store he had ordered from was fake because he hadn’t heard anything after placing his order (other than an automatic order acknowledgement).

He Googled the website’s name and saw complaints about in on forums.

Sign four: install McAfee WebAdvisor

Well before Google started adding green ticks to indicate sites were safe to visit, McAfee was doing much the same.

If you would like a bit of extra reassurance, then McAfee WebAdvisor is your friend. Note it only supports Windows computers.

What can you do if you buy from a fake web store?

Even if you buy from a foreign website, you will be covered provided you buy with a credit card – and that the purchase is over £100.

This is where the phone number on the back of your card comes in handy. In our case, we rang the number and had a refund within 20 minutes.

Technically, though, our refund was due to a process called Chargeback. This is protection available through several debit and credit card providers, and it’s designed for mis-sold items or products that never arrive.

Chargeback doesn’t have a minimum amount, but Barclaycard will only honour orders over £10. Also note that you must make your claim within 120 days. More details here.

Notably, some credit cards offer additional protection, so it’s always worth making that phone call.

If you bought with PayPal then you’ll also be covered, as this page indicates. However, chances are that the website you used didn’t take support Paypal for precisely this reason.

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email

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