At the time of writing (October 2010), winter is almost upon us and sadly, it's time once again for a bunch of anonymous Chinese wholesalers to scam a fortune from customers in the west who are willing to take any risk so as to get a bargain.
Last year, members reporting to the SiteJabber site alone had lost more than $5000 to these people. This is a very big, very successful business and it isn't going to disappear, so we have to learn how to avoid getting trapped by it.
A year has rolled by, and the scammers are still there, so let me take this opportunity to repeat some advice and information.
1. Genuine Ugg boots are NOT sold at deep discounts by authorized retailers, except occasionally as clearance lines in certain limited sizes and colors. Any site that offers discounts of 30-70% across the board is going to be selling fakes.
2. Any site with the words "ugg" or "cardy" or "bailey" in the domain name, or any other model name owned by Deckers, Inc., which owns the Ugg brand, are ALL phony, without exception. Deckers does not permit any of its authorized sellers to use any of these words in their website names.
3. the official website of the Ugg brand is at http://www.uggaustralia.com, and you can see lists of all the official national and international retailers here. All other sites claiming to be authorized are fakes.
4. Also look on the UGG Australia website for extensive information about how to spot fakes, and fake sites.
5. If you fail to recall any of the above, learn to recognize some of the key elements of Chinese wholesale sites, and I recommend (obviously) my own site for the purpose. If you visit http://www.bucketsofuggs.com you will find a wealth of information about fake uggs and the sites that sell them.
If you're in a hurry, though, here are some of the most common things to watch for:
A) Bad spelling and grammar. These people are rarely competent in English.
B) Text copied from other sites. If a page of text seems to be far more competent in English than you would expect from the rest of the site, it has most likely been copied from another site entirely. Copy a line and Google it, with quotes around it, to see if it turns up elsewhere. Also applies to testimonials.
C) Official-looking brand graphics, ads and other promotional images. You should ignore these, without exception, and try to visualize the page without them. Most will have been stolen from an official site and re-used without permission.
D) Badges which indicate that the site is a member of assorted verification and security services such as Verisign and McAffee. There are ways to tell if these are genuine or not, but as a rule of thumb, they're best ignored in any case.
E) Prominent Western Union badges, and occasionally, offers of even deeper discounts for WU users. Nobody uses WU to trade with people they don't know unless they never want to see their goods or money again. Also applies to other methods of sending cash, which is highly risky.
F) The EMS badge, which belongs to an Asian carrier, generally indicates that goods are being shipped from China. Deckers Inc. do have their products manufactured in China, but do not distribute from there.
G) Mixed and often mismatched font faces and sizes, and other unprofessional features in the layout.
H) Photos of products, which are often stolen from genuine sites. Remember, you are not buying a photo.
I) Regardless of claims, if you arrive on a page that asks you to type your credit card number and there is no "https :// " at the start of the address, nor any green or blue bar to the left of the address in your browser, the page is not secured and you should not send anything from it. Remember, any claims that a site has an SSL certificate which secures their checkout may have copied that text from another site entirely.
J) Payment processing with PayPal. If a site uses PayPal exclusively, you have NO safe options at all. PayPal does NOT provide buyer protection for transactions outside of Ebay. So if you are offered a credit card transaction but have to go through PP to do it, you will have no claim on them if things go wrong. As an aside, also never use a debit card on any site that you are in the least suspicious of. You are giving it access to your bank account, and will not be able to stop payments that are set up without your knowledge.
K) Odd domain names, or phrases with words in the wrong order, are sometimes indications that a site is phony. Look at the name and ask yourself if it would look right above a shop.
I can hear you saying, yes, but hang on, if we take all these things into account, what's left? We can't trust the claims, or the badges, or the photos, and everything else is either a lie or copied from elsewhere. And the answer is, that nothing at any website is trustworthy simply because you're told it is, or you can see it for yourself. The only reason you should trust the brand-owner's site at www.uggaustralia.com, is because it is indisputably the home page of the Ugg brand and you can use several outside sources to confirm that, including the domain name register and information from the Deckers Inc. site.
Internet shopping is entirely unlike real-world shopping, because you are relying only on images and promises presented to you as being honest. But you cannot see, touch or try out the real products and may not be able to get a return or refund if things don't work out. It may be the case that regardless of how apparently authentic a site is, you will only be made certain by consulting external sources of information.
If you remember none of that, remember this: If something looks too good to be true, it is.
Look at this site at www.ugg4shop.co.uk for a moment. It has Ugg in the name, making it instantly phony. It doesn't have a secure checkout, regardless of the claim to the contrary. It uses PayPal. It is full of grammatical and spelling errors. Prices are suspiciously low. Even without the special knowledge needed to look further and identify less obvious clues, you should already be running away from this one.
Take care, be safe out there, and be prepared, sometimes, to pay the full price for the genuine article or accept that you will only get the quality you pay for, at the very most. And that quality can be very, very poor. So, do you feel lucky?