3. Test out customer support

Take the brand’s customer service on a test drive before buying. Reach out to the company through its official channels, such as a support email or phone number, as well as by direct message on the social media platform.

Donets suggests doing this multiple times to get a true sense of the company’s responsiveness.

“In my experience, this strategy works 90% of the time,” Donets says. “In most cases, a shady company will answer one or maximum two questions, and then they would stop replying.”

4. Triple-check the return policy

Make sure you’re crystal clear on the return policy before tapping the “buy” button. If you’re unhappy with the item, how many days do you have to return it? Does the site allow for a full refund or will you be issued a credit? Does the company even allow returns?

“I fell into this trap and bought a ring with my daughters’ names on it,” Woroch says. “It did not look like the picture in the ad, and unfortunately I overlooked the no-return policy. So basically I threw away $40.”

5. Pay with a credit card

You can do all the research in the world and still fall victim to a glossy Instagram ad. And if you paid from a checking account or with cryptocurrency, you have little recourse to get your money back.

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