With the click of a mouse, you can buy a blouse, a shed or even a motorcycle—but make sure you don't end up with a disposable hotel shower cap from China.
As Internet shopping becomes more sophisticated and more popular, scams are evolving right along with it. The usual flurry of rip-offs still exists, such as paying for merchandise that never arrives, clicking on bogus links that imbed data-stealing spyware into your computer, and receiving a pair of socks that look nothing like the socks in the photo.
But a new one has hit the market in the form of the shower-cap-from-China scam. It works like this: You spend days searching the Internet for the perfect pair of purple Dr. Martens boots you know must exist, because you have the same thing in peacock blue. All your usual shoe-buying haunts are sold out of your size, or only have the style in some putrid floral print, or are sold out altogether.
Then you stumble upon a site called Shop-Cora.com, which you think is based in the United Kingdom since there's a little British flag at the top. There sit your perfect purple boots! Not only are the boots available in your size, but they are also about half the price you've seen anywhere else.
Select. Click. Pay with PayPal. Jump up and down with glee (being careful not to land on your dogs).
Then the wait begins. You hear nothing from this Shop-Cora place regarding a delivery date or even an order confirmation, although you do note that the PayPal money was snatched up rather quickly. It was snatched, however, by someone with the name of "zhaocheng luo," decidedly not a British moniker.
You email Shop-Cora about your order, but to no avail. A couple of weeks go by with no word on your boots, although you do receive a package from China with writing so faint you can barely read it. Enclosed is a disposable shower cap still in its hotel wrapping. You have a WTF moment, throw the shower cap to the side and forget about it.
After emailing the Shop-Cora place again and still receiving no response, you escalate your transaction on PayPal to a dispute.
Shop-Cora responds to PayPal, saying it sent a package, and here's the tracking number. PayPal says it has proof of shipment. Case closed.
Here's where the proverbial light bulb goes off in your head: You retrieve the shower cap from where you threw it under your computer desk and look at the tracking number. It matches. That was the answer to your boot order—a disposable shower cap from China. You just paid $58 for a disposable hotel shower cap from China.
Here's where a plug for PayPal fits in. The "case closed" makes you livid, so you get PayPal on the phone, trembling in anger and frustration. The representative not only calms you down, but she also makes you laugh at least twice while you relay your tale of woe, and—most importantly—she reverses the transaction to refund your money in full.
You don't get your purple boots, but once all the dust settles, you do technically end up with a "free gift" from China.
You also end up with a more-discerning mind when it comes to letting your irrational passion for purple boots override your safe-shopping savvy. In hindsight, there were gads of hints that should have tipped you off. For starters, the British flag on the site: Upon closer inspection, you learn it only denoted that you were reading the text in British English rather than, say, Swahili.
Another tip was the number of boots available. The shop's stock of hard-to-find perfect purple boots was listed at 850 pairs. Granted, they may not all have been in your size, but come on.
But the biggest tipoff could have been found through a quick and very easy Internet search. Enter Shop-Cora, and multiple links to a site called Scambook.com immediately pop up. Click on the first one, and you find a total of 115 complaints lodged against Shop-Cora.com involving nearly $10,000.
The refunds are listed as $0. And there is no indication whether any of those folks at least had the pleasure of receiving a disposable hotel shower cap from China.