Both US as well as Chinese online shops are becoming more and more popular these days among European buyers and it’s not difficult to see why. Many of them offer laughably cheap prices and great delivery options.

However, all is not as it seems. In fact many of these ultra-cheap shops are complete hoaxes which might mean that you eventually spend more that you would otherwise, or even worse – get your money scammed.

In this article we will talk about basic safety tips for buying from foreign online shops of unknown origins. So, the next time you will buy a gift for your friend to send parcel to Germany, you will do so after buying from a completely safe online shop.

The classic bait – hidden costs

Chinese and US shops often appear to be offering much cheaper prices for the same stuff than their competition here out here in Europe. If you consider all of the things that you have to keep in mind, to run a shop, it wouldn’t make sense to drop the costs that low.

Where’s the catch? 

„Hidden costs“.

There’s a slim chance that you know chinese well if you’re from Europe. While not necessarily outright scams, the shops might include a few additional boxes misleading you to click on them and pay for something. 

The same goes for US shops. Eventually you’re paying the same as in Europe, if not much more, so beware

Charges for post

A small item that might seem like a bargain, could soon become a disaster after you order it. Since these types online shops can offer an item for a few cents, a trick here might be to pay extra for shipping. 

Let’s say you buy a USB stick for 0.99 euro. With shipping for let’s say 4.99, you end up paying around a normal price for such an item overall.

This is exactly the way they can get you. So, to protect yourself from unnecessary payments, you need to pay attention to what includes your total shipping cost.

Since shipping prices have risen a bit worldwide in recent years, it’s often difficult to find a cheap item with free shipping. Before you checkout, pay attention to what you’re paying for.

Customs duty

If you’re buying an item from China or the US, especially a more expensive one, it’s likely it will get checked at the customs office if you’re from the EU, especially if it’s a bigger and more expensive item.

While selecting your country as a destination at checkout, be sure that additional taxes like VAT don’t add up later on in the overall price.

In the UK for example, anything that is priced for more than 15 pounds and comes from China and the US will be charged with a 20% tax rate for VAT.

What’s more, items priced for 135 pounds or more will require customs duty..

So the idea here is to not get unpleasantly surprised with extra taxes.

Currency exchange rates

Sometimes the yen and the dollar can also have an effect on what you pay, as such, exchange rates might affect the buying process as well.

You see, the price really depends on the rates that are for the exact that you will buy. As changes fluctuate quite often, what you pay changes dramatically.

It’s also worth knowing whether your bank charges extra fees if you’re buying in another currency, because quite often they do.

Again, an online shop may not disclose this information, which will mean that you end paying more than you should.

Finding the best way to pay

Naturally, when buying from a shop you don’t know much about, you will want to have a secure paying method to protect yourself and your data.

Interestingly, bank transfers are considered to be one of the unsafest buying methods out there if a website looks at least a bit shady.

How can you stay safe?

Shady website are becoming harder to distinguish from real ones more and more by the day. This means that there’s always a risk for falling to one of the sellers tricks, especially if youre looking cheapest deal.

Before checking out, make sure you research the website and analyze what you see before your eyes. A silly domain name or a logo might be the first red flags you need to pay attention to.

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