Fry from Futurama holding up a wad of cash in the "shut up and take my money" meme

Everyone’s Buying Stuff From TikTok Shop, But Is It Safe?

Online shopping is all fun and games … until you get scammed. Maybe you bought that special cream your favorite TikTok influencer plugged on their socials, only to have the item show up damaged, opened, or much smaller than you expected. Or, maybe it didn’t show up at all.

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There’s an inherent risk every time we click “buy” online, but that doesn’t stop millions of people from doing just that each and every day. Even TikTok, a site known for spying on its users, has had tremendous success with its new e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop, which just rolled out in September 2022 and already has about 33.3 million social buyers in the United States, according to Insider Intelligence.

For reference, Facebook has about 65.7 million shoppers in the U.S., and Instagram boasts 43 million. Combine that with the fact that 68 percent of Gen Z users are willing to buy from sites like TikTok, and there’s little reason to be surprised at the Wall Street Journal‘s report that TikTok has plans for major expansion in the e-commerce platform.

Buying is almost too easy

Online sellers count on people making impulsive purchases while browsing social media. It’s super easy to connect to third party services Paypal or Stripe and evaporate money from your bank account with just a few clicks of the mouse. It seems like a great way for content creators to make a little extra change, which is good, right? So, what’s in it for TikTok?

First of all, they’ve found a way to get users to create content for them for free. Then, when the content creators start selling their swag on TikTok, the company takes a cut of their sales. Also, they collect buyers’ data, which they’ll use to serve up other products and services they think you’ll like.

As the saying goes “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” That’s why certified financial planner Don Grant told Money, “Those who post on TikTok want something from you. The TikTok platform wants something from you. If that ‘something’ is of value, viewers may only know it once it’s missing.”

So, is it safe?

As with every other online shopping platform, proceed with caution. There are lots of shops online that are fake, misleading, or offer subpar knockoffs. It’s important to do a modicum of research before clicking that big green “purchase” button, which goes against the grain on most social sites. They count on users quickly buying something without thinking it through, so the first step in combatting scam sites is to stop scrolling and think.

NBC5 Chicago reports that Steve Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau Chicago, issued a press release stating that buying from TikTop Shop is just as risky as purchasing from any other social media site. That is to say, it’s pretty risky.

“Consumers should vigilantly follow online shopping safety tips when using TikTok Shop,” he stated. “With any new service comes the potential for scams, especially with online shopping, where it could be difficult to verify a seller’s identity or vet their background.”

Take a beat. Read reviews. Research the seller.

The BBB offered a few tips for combatting online shopping fraud. Aside from asking yourself the obvious question, which is “do I really need this item that I just saw and immediately fell in love with?” Buyers should also ask if there’s a better, more trusted site to buy the same product, especially if some comments on the seller’s profile contain any red flags.

Sticking only to verified sellers is another way to avoid getting rooked. The BBB also advises using a credit card to shop, since credit card companies are better at disputing transactions. Last but not least, BBB says we should check the return policy before buying anything, just in case.

Be careful out there, folks! If something seems like it might be a scam, it probably is.

(featured image: 20th Century Television)


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Author
Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.