A librarian contacted me on Facebook recently about her investigation into a network of dodgy shopping sites linked back to a single parent, Chicv International Holding Limited. As many in the Community like shopping online, it serves as a pertinent warning to the number of shopping sites Chicv is operating and to doing some due dilligence if you’re unfamiliar with a particular website.
Check out the reviews, and make sure you are dealing with a genuine operater if you’re making purchases to avoid headaches and hassle.
If you’ve had any recent trials and tribulations shopping online, be sure to share your experience below.
Given the amount of effort most vendors put into creating a brand name and putting it in front of you at every opportunity ask yourself why anybody would do the reverse. This mob have carefully diluted, even obscured their brand by creating so many web sites with the same inventory. They are not interested in you recalling their name or in return business. This is 100% against the precepts of marketing 101.
There is only one possible explanation: they are not actually selling anything, their many web pages are so that when one gets a bad reputation they move on to using the others. You don’t have to read any reviews to realise what this means. Do not give these people your money, you will probably never see it or the goods again.
How do you keep up and know if any new web site is another of their clones? You need to apply the methods outlined by The Librarian. If you can’t do that or don’t have time then stick to big name vendors who have clearly shown they are in the business of selling goods.
Hi team it’s the Librarian here - please spread the word of these websites to your friends and family as they are actively advertising on Instagram and do look quite polished on the surface. If I stumble across any new websites not listed in my blog I will post them here. ️
During my investigations I also found a number of similar looking shopping websites that were registered to the entity DomainsByProxy.com. DomainsByProxy.com is an entity that ensures the identity of the owner of the domain remains private. If you stumble across a shopping website that feels it needs to conceal the identity of its parent company, I would suggest you be wary of the websites legitimacy.
For instance, the website www.zenmof.com just popped up on my Insta feed - this time it seems to be targeting men’s boots as well as women’s, however there were enough similarities in the photos and discounting strategies to catch my attention. Investigation revealed the website is only 3 months old, and yet has almost 12,000 likes on Facebook and no customer reviews? Also, as an additional warning sign all of the websites I have mentioned to date disable the ability to click on the Insta ad to view the full account and see past posts and number of followers. It’s all rather fishy!
I’ve had a similar experience looking for linen dresses, noticing several sites had the same photos of Asian ladies wearing oversized ‘linen’ dresses. Finally jumped on a site called lightinthebox, ordered and paid for two linen dresses, took much longer to arrive only found they were very synthetic and not the linen or cotton they advertised them as and bore no resemblance to the sizing they were promoting.
Their email bounces and they use chatbots to answer your query in Messenger and although they say send them back, the postage would be more than I paid for them. They also want video evidence of my complaint, and despite pointing them to the wording on the website and the fact you can’t show in a video the failure of the fabric to be a natural fibre. I wished I saw the Product review site!
Welcome @GingerMegs. It is also good to see information posted widely to warn others of the risks of online shopping. Risks exist and can often be avoided with some little research.
I always do the following research when buying of a online seller I am not familiar with (it sounds a bit OTT, but, losing money is a worse outcome):
Search for reviews independent of the online retailer’s website. Read and review as meany as you can and I mainly check those which don’t give favourable reviews. If they are a number of concerning reviews (such as goods paid for but never arrived, counterfeit items, goods not as described etc), I look elsewhere.
Search for information about the company such as registered business address and ABN/ACN if the domain ends in .AU as there are now many overseas companies which have .AU but aren’t necessary registered for business in Australia.
If it is in Russia or some other country known for dubious websites, I also avoid these ones.
If the website (or business) is located in another country, I check to see what the complaint resolution processes for their consumer affairs agency and see if the process is available to foreign purchases.
Look for contact details (trading address) of the business on the website and using other tools such as https://www.yellowpages.com.au/, googling or other methods data mining. Once the address is known, I them use Google Maps and it’s street view to view the address location. Looking at this gives me an idea if the business is legitimate as commercial premises will often have signs indicating tenants etc (or a commercial premise exists). I also Google the trading address to see what other hits also exist. Quite often there can be a number of ‘dollar’ companies being run from the same address…also then google these other ‘dollar’ companies to ensure that the website is not of a ‘phoenix’ company (rebirth of a company with bad reviews).
Also look at the website of the seller to see what contact information it also provides and also do searches on these (emails, postal addresses, street addresses, trading premises etc).
Usually conducting the above research generates for information/data on the business one can search on…allowing a second level and deeper search/research.
Once I have all the above information, I then determine what the risks of the purchase is and whether I proceed. On average about 50% of websites which I have investigated I have decided not to purchase from as the risks were too high for me.
While the above may take up to half an hour to do, I would rather my hard cold cash being going to a legitimate and reliable company/seller rather than filling a scammer’s pockets. Filling a scammer’s pocket only encourages them to continues with their scam/sham operations.
One recent example I recall which did not pass the above test was http://www.camerasky.com.au/ and its numerous other shell companies. I was planning to purchase a reasonable expensive camera (one recommended by Choice) and fortunately did the research as I would have most likely lost by hard earned cash). I ended buying locally for about 10% more, but the additional 10% was better than losing 100% of the cheaper amount paid.
When they were active, they paid for Google advertising so that they were placed at the top of the first page of the search results.
What would be good and would prevent the proliferation of scam selling websites, is that Google shuts down the advertising as soon as it has been reported (either through regulators or verifiable customer complaints) a sham site.
I believe that Google has a corporate responsible to the users of its services from sham/scam sites.
Thanks for your fine research and welcome to the forum. I hope you manage to expose more deceptions for us.
As I’m sure you are well aware, it is very cheap to buy Facebook likes, particularly from India. And, it does get sites to the top of the searches. For phoenix sites like the ones you have found, it doesn’t matter if Facebook catches up to the purchased likes, as they just move on.
I have to disagree with this, having heard plenty of website owners say that they obscure ownership details to avoid spam and other annoyances.
That’s a name I came across years ago, but apparently never trusted enough to buy from! They’re still in business, obviously - selling clothes, phones, computers…
From the personal angle, I have always taken care where I spend my money. I do my searches for deals, but consider carefully before doing business. Example? Aliexpress.com is a great website for all sorts of cheap products. I’ve bought a torch, USB cables (slightly dodgy), a branded power bank that was advertised as from the official store and works every bit as well as I expected given that brand, and several other bits and pieces such as USB-powered fans. Would I buy a computer or phone there? I did buy a Chinese-brand mobile phone, which worked as advertised except for its GPS capabilities being streets behind wherever I was.
I also use US websites occasionally - Amazon.com of course, as well as bhphotovideo.com, which has physical locations and a good reputation.
My biggest problem is making a decision. It can take me tens to hundreds of hours to make my mind up about what I want and where I am prepared to buy it - only to see it next week for 10% less!
There are plenty of tools available for checking out a website - whether to check its country of origin, age, or feedback about it. I am very impressed by the work @GingerMegs has put into this particular research project.
Isn’t that confusing ownership details with contact details? I can accept sites sometimes go to lengths to try defeating spam and so on, but not publishing owner details in ways that are not usable by spam bots seems sus to me. I accept network/ownership lookups have the formal contact details but any company that is either incapable or unwilling to manage that single account probably should not be in any online business.
While some may be above board as you write, to me real owner/contact details are one of the litmus tests such as having street addresses, a phone, a business not generic email address not just an email form, and other bits that reinforce legitimacy not opaqueness. Many small business people, esp tradies and services have generic emails and mobile numbers, but are not ecommerce retailers so I give them a by when they at least post their service areas, and when they do not and I do not know where they operate I give them a miss.
To a certain extent, yes - but. Here is an example of the DNS record for a domain I trust. This one is a really important domain for staying secure. Even Choice Community has very little publicly available information about the owner/controller!
So yes, contact details are obscured - but so are ownership details.
Choice.community is well identified on the website, with email, staff names, and a link to Choice itself. Obviously not hiding and the .community is not selling anything although Choice sells subscriptions.
As for HaveIBeenPwned.com, he explains who and why he is and whilst not totally obvious provides a link to his home page. Further he is not selling something.
So, not quite the same as obfuscating ecommerce site ownership. We can agree to disagree, and I agree with the original premise that (bold added for my context)