Scams, digital security
Here are some scams you might encounter on the shopping giant, as well as some simple steps you can take to protect your data while bagging that irresistible deal.
January 17, 2024
5 minutes. read
If you’re on social media or use Google Shopping, there’s a good chance you’ve been bombarded with ads for Temu, a Chinese e-commerce marketplace that offers rock-bottom prices compared to its Western equivalents. $6 for a pair of sneakers? A $10 computer keyboard?
Given the wide variety of items, estimated in the tens of millions, and the number of cut-price deals on offer, many inflation-weary Westerners have been attracted to the site, so much so that Temu is the most downloaded shopping app global. Meanwhile, others are wondering what Temu’s rise means in terms of environmental impact and product safety and whether the store is actually legitimate. Let’s explore some of these questions in detail here.
What is Temu?
Temu, the Western brand arm of Chinese online retail giant Pingduoduo, effectively gives shoppers the opportunity to buy directly from reputable Chinese manufacturers at low prices. It also offers users the opportunity to earn credits for cash back on future purchases, either through spin games or by encouraging others to join the site – more on that later.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and many customer reviews aren’t exactly glowing. At the time of writing, the site only has a 2.5/5 rating from visitors in the United States. Business Improvement Office (BBB) while a third of reviews on Trusted Driver are a star. Users frequently criticize Temu for its inbox spamming, difficulty receiving refunds, and items arriving in poor condition or not at all. Concerns have have also been raised regarding the possible use of forced labor in product supply chains.
Also a A US government agency has accused Temu and fellow Chinese retailer Shein on potential data risks, which could echo concerns that have surrounded the sector for some time. TikTok data practicesanother very popular Chinese-owned online service.
Of course, the above does not make Temu a scam site. However, fraudsters will still focus on where the users are, which means latching onto Chinese branded retailer Orange to deceive consumers without their knowledge.
Top 5 Temu scams
Here are some of the most common tactics that have been spotted on Temu:
1. Nude Celebrity “Leaks”
If you would like to be eligible for cash or rewards that can be redeemed when shopping with Temu, you can do so by getting others to join you and entering your referral code. However, the fraudsters have taken to social media to encourage users to enter these codes. One method is to publish salacious photos of a celebrity (e.g. on Twitter, TikTok, etc.) with a cryptic message implying that users can access the nudes if they enter the code in Temu. Of course, there are no photos and the scammer is simply accumulating more references.
2. Fortnite/Roblox Perks
Similar to the tactic above, a scammer will post on social media, claiming that users can access a free Roblox Robux gift card, allowing them to purchase upgrades for their avatars or purchase special abilities on the site. All they have to do to claim the reward is enter the referral code on Temu. Another popular lure is the offer of rare Fortnite skins. Again, there is no offer. The scammer simply takes advantage of the curiosity of social media users and the fact that Temu is not yet universally known.
3. Duped Products
Although Temu’s sister company, Pingduoduo, is on the US list of “marketplaces notorious for counterfeit products and piracy”, there is no indication that Temu lists counterfeit products. But there are reports of duplicate products that approach the boundaries of patent infringement without crossing them. If a user searches, for example: for an Apple product, they could be presented with similar items at a fraction of the price. For the uninitiated and unsavvy e-commerce buyer, this could lead to serious buyer’s remorse.
4. Celebrity Merchandise
Another social media scam exploiting Temu’s drawing power involves fake celebrity posts made to appear as if they have a business partnership with China’s e-commerce market. The end goal, again, is to persuade fans to visit the site and enter the referral code, in order to purchase discounted products endorsed by the celebrity. Again, no such deal exists and the codes simply earn the scammer more money/rewards with Temu.
5. 90% Off Scams
You should also watch out for website advertising and unsolicited emails promising huge discounts on a wide range of products listed by Temu. They will use classic social engineering techniques, such as creating a sense of urgency through limited time offers and amazing deals. But by clicking on it, you will be redirected to a similar phishing site, where scammers collect your card information. They now have your personal and financial information, but there is no chance you will ever receive your order.
How to Stay Safe When Shopping on Temu
To his credit, Temu is strengthening its security by run a bug bounty program, as well as trying to crack down on scams. He recently won in the United States, preliminary injunctions against phishing sites impersonating the site. However, you should also remain vigilant and remember these safety tips:
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails or advertisements.
- If you want to view a Temu offer advertised online, visit the site independently.
- Do not save your payment information in your account. Also set up two-factor authentication (2FA) so your account is protected by more than just a password. Temu now offers SMS-based 2FA, which, while nowhere near as secure as hardware security keys or even dedicated mobile authentication apps, is better than nothing.
- Don’t fall for offers asking you to enter a referral code on Temu, especially those featuring celebrities.
- Always look carefully at what you buy to avoid disappointment.
- Temu offers special offers and low prices. But huge discounts across the board might just be a scam. Check online to see if anyone else mentions them as such.
More generally, be careful about the amount of data you disclose and the types of permissions you grant to the Temu app, or any other mobile application for that matter. Here are some easy precautions to implement if you’re worried about giving away too much personal information to Temu or many other online stores and marketplaces:
Although there is no evidence that the site itself is a scam, scammers can still try to use it to defraud buyers. You are advised to exercise caution when shopping online.
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