Drone Scam Sites and how to avoid them - a few tips

Drone Scam Sites and how to avoid them - a few tips

We all want the best deal when buying a drone and a quick search online will bring up all sorts of offers with some of them seeming too good to be true. We all love to save a bit of money and seeing a drone for well below the normal retail price can unfortunately sometimes cloud our judgement. It is all too easy to order from a site which appears to be a UK retailer but is in fact not based in the UK at all. What this means is that at worst you will lose all your money and even have your personal details passed on to other scam sites who will then target you with emails and even contact you by phone. The best outcome you can hope for is waiting 2 or 3 weeks for a drone that turns out to be a copy, fake or reconditioned product with 2 pin plugs, illegal remote control frequencies and no warranty. When you try to return the drone you will find the scam site UK address is just an office block or similar with no connection to the scam site at all. If you try to get your money back with paypal it can be very difficult because the scam site can prove you did receive something so it becomes your word against theirs and the scam site knows all the tricks to get round paypal. If you have paid on your credit card then it is even harder to get anything back because you won’t be able to deny it is a payment you made and the scam site can prove they did send something to you – albeit a fake product. I've written this blog because many of my customers have come across these sort of sites before they get to me and i've heard some very sad stories.

So what should you look for when considering buying a drone online? Any legitimate company will have some or all of the following for you to check -

1.    Are their prices just good or too good to be true? This is your first warning – most drone manufacturers set the price that the drone should be sold for so if the price is below this they may not be a genuine retailer.
2.    Do they have a genuine UK address? This may be a shop or industrial unit but you should be able to check it out on google and street view.
3.    Do they have a UK phone number? Beware of 0800 or 0845 numbers because these can easily be diverted out of the UK and if you get a recorded message then hang up because the call could be premium rate.
4.    Does the company have a uk business registration number? You can check on gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company. Or they should have a vat number which you can check with HMRC.
5.    Do they have any photos of their store on their website? If not why not.
6.    Is it possible to collect your order from them? Most genuine retailers offer a collection service.
7.    Do they have any google reviews? If not why not.
8.    Do they have active social media? Most companies use social media such as Facebook or Twitter to engage with their customers. If their website has no social media it should be a warning to you and some of them have social media icons on their site but they don’t go anywhere. 
9.    Don’t fall for the online chat? Some of the scam site have a chat box when you can get an instant answer to any questions. In truth you could be speaking to someone anywhere in the world.

Below is a such a chat I had with a scam site very recently with a company with an address in Leeds – You can see how the operator had an answer for everything -

Scam Site. Hello. How may I help you?
Visitor. I will be in Leeds on Friday. If I place an order can I collect?
Scam Site.  Hi, Unfortunately due to security reasons we do not accept collections. Very sorry about this!
Visitor. It is a Christmas present. I can bring ID.
Scam Site. If you order online, it usually takes around 3-5 working days depending on the product to arrive. We would accept collections but unfortunately our warehouse had a bad experience previously.
Visitor. Ok well I am in Leeds next week on Friday 15th December - can I order it now and collect it then?
Scam Site.  May I ask which product you are looking at?
Visitor. Mavic fly more pack
Scam Site. Unfortunately we would not be able to do that. Delivery is the only option we would have with this. If you ordered it now, we would need to have a tracking number for the order as we will be sending it to you.
Visitor. Can I come and look at the drone on Friday?
Scam Site. Unfortunately as explained, we do not allow anyone into our warehouse due to security reasons.
Visitor. I have just checked out your address on google street view and it is just an office block. Are you really in that building?
Scam Site. Yes we are in that building. Also it’s not just offices, there are units.
Visitor. Do you have any photos of your store?
Scam Site. Unfortunately we cannot provide photos of our store.
Visitor. Why don't the social media links on your website work.
Scam Site. I will need to speak to another member of staff regarding this, I just deal with customer inquiries.
Visitor. Do you have any reviews I can look at?
Scam Site. You can see on our product page, it shows a few reviews.
Visitor. What about reviews for Scam site?
Scam Site. Those are reviews for Scam Site.
Visitor. What about google reviews?
Scam Site. I am unsure we have any unfortunately.
Visitor. ok I will order online. Do you have the Mavic Pack in stock?
Scam Site. Yes I believe we do, it would be arriving via DPD and would take 3-5 working days.
Visitor. Why will it take 5 days with DPD - don't they do next working day delivery in the UK?
Scam Site. The delivery time is this due to processing time too. We are very busy at the moment so orders are being processed as soon as possible It is usually the lower end of our estimate.
Visitor. I really appreciate you having the time to speak with me if you are so busy.
Scam Site. Not a problem! I am part of the customer care team so it is another department doing the order processing.
Visitor. When did this business start?
Scam Site. It is a relatively new business and it has been around 5 months. We all have to start somewhere. I am not going to lie to you and tell you we have been trading for many years as we want to be honest with our customers.
Visitor. How can you sell the Mavic Pack £200 cheaper than anyone else?
Scam Site. These are imported, essentially they are exactly the same as they are all made in the same factory. You would not even know if I had not told you but we want to be honest.
Visitor. Yes it's good to be honest. Isn't it true that this is a scam site and you are not in the UK at all?
Scam Site. We are in the UK, we are a UK based company.
Visitor. Your address is an office block.
There are no photos of your staff.
You have no real reviews.
You have no vat number or business registration number.
You have no photos of your store.
You have no social media.
This is a scam site.

Scam Site. Yes, I am based in the offices. We have a unit also within the building. Our reviews are real, as you can understand it takes time to build up many reviews. Here is our company registration number 10879795 I cannot comment on social media.We do not have pictures because these are high value items, due to security reasons we cannot put those on. I understand it is a high value purchase so I can understand your concerns. Your payment can be made via PayPal so you are essentially protected by their buyer protection programme.
Visitor. The business registration number you gave me belongs to a used car retailer.

Posted by Christian Smith