A Guide to Safe Shopping: Is AliExpress Safe?
The successful Western expansion of the Chinese digital mega-companies is underway with a big number of industry names making their Wall Street debut and others looking to expand beyond their initial territorial limits.
Let’s start by saying that AliExpress is the 44th most popular website on the web, and the third most popular one in the shopping general merchandise category.
Digging a bit deeper into the stats opens up a picture that would be the dream of any online retailer: over 639 million visits, many of which are translating into purchases from the website. So, given the huge number of shoppers, users can’t but ask whether Aliexpress is safe for the millions of buyers that it serves. Is it a good place to look for goods and feature the details of your bank card? Is AliExpress safe to shop? Or, if otherwise, what are the dangers? Let’s hold a small e-investigation and try to figure this out together!
Digging into the history of security
AliExpress security has been pretty much reliable in recent times. The main pressure the website has been facing is related to the abundance of counterfeit goods and fake sellers, which results in a number of disputes. Such pressure, combined with the urge to be more globally competitive, has made way for AliExpress to switch up its commitment to IP protection. One huge step on this way was naming Matthew Bassiur, a former member of the Apple anti-counterfeit program team, as Head of Global Intellectual Property Enforcement. Coming on board, Bassiur will lead the team to push efforts in the fight against international counterfeiting.
As for the past cases of vulnerability, the most recent (and a huge) vulnerability report struck Aliexpress back in 2014. As reported by Hacker News, a downfall of security of Aliexpress occurred which could have resulted in leakage of a huge amount of users’ personal data.
Luckily, AliExpress security team was on guard and the issue was quickly resolved. After this, no major security threats have been reported and AliExpress has worked extensively on removing any issues with security.
Aliexpress safety stats
The “word of mouth” is probably one of the most crucial benefits of the global web. Any popular resource has been used by many people before you decided to access it, and luckily these people are willing to share their opinions regarding the services, with their pros and cons.
A particularly large number of reviews can be found on www.mywot.com. The thread bearing the name “is aliexpress.com safe” has attracted a mix of opinions, but let’s have a look at the overall rankings first.
Digging into user feedback
After looking and a large number of reviews in the Web of Trust community, it can be seen that most users rate the website itself as trustable. There are no reports of malware or spyware or fraudful activities by the website. However, that doesn’t mean that AliExpress is a safe place to shop.
The reason behind this statement is that AliExpress doesn’t sell its own goods. In fact, it’s a huge platform that unites thousands of independent sellers, and while the website itself is far from posing danger, buying from these sellers can often result in “shopping disasters”. This can be easily seen from the reviews on WOT. Users report a large number of fake sellers, stolen goods or counterfeit items.
As a reputable website, AliExpress does offer customer support. However, on that matter, a lot of users report that it relies mainly on robots (let’s give it up for artificial intelligence, NLP and chatbots!) and reaching actual human support takes forever. This means any dispute is left to be handled by the parties themselves.
Let’s also look at feedback from some other online communities to check if the issues reported by them are the same. Looking at a thread on Quora reveals the same issue as reported by WOT users. Scammers seem to be quite a frequent occurrence on the website, so users have to beware. Read Zhou Jack‘s answer to Is it safe to buy from AliExpress? on Quora
Reaching the safe side
What can you do to use all the benefits of AliExpress and still leave out the dangers while shopping? Well, a couple of things:
1. Buy from established sellers
Pay special attention to:
- The time this particular seller has been selling on AliExpress
- Top Rated Seller badge that is given to sellers that have proved to be reliable over an extended period of time
- Feedback Score to make sure the particular seller is rated high by end users
- Positive Feedback in the form of reviews by previous buyers
- Number of sales, to make sure the seller has dealt with enough buyers to make himself reliable
2. Read complete item details/description
Sometimes very useful information is included in the item details/description section that is missing from the short description. And at times, the most important info is missing from the headline! This way you can make sure you know what you are buying.
3. Seller guarantees
Many individual sellers will have their own set of guarantees that is worth looking at if you are opting for something expensive. The Guaranteed Genuine tag makes sure that the item is original, while the Returns Extra tag allows to return the good and receive money back in case you want to return the item for any reason. It’s wise to opt for sellers offering these guarantees if you are looking to buy your next iPhone!
4. Communicate with the seller before buying
Ask any questions relating to the goods beforehand, so you have material proof in case things go astray.
5. Beware of items with super low prices
If you feel that the price of a particular item is too good to be true, it most certainly is a Chinese knockoff of the real item which looks like a genuine product, but is far from being one.
AliExpress doesn’t support PayPal, but it has a decent paying system known as Escrow. The service acts as an intermediary between the two parties, ensuring regulations in case of disputes so both parties are rather safe from the financial perspective. While the buyers can opt for alternative methods of paying, the only thing to beware of is paying directly to the seller. In this case, it will be practically impossible to receive money back or handle a dispute.
So, is AliExpress safe? It pretty much is as a website, but when it comes to buying from the individual sellers, there is a lot to beware. Take the steps listed above and make sure you have secured your purchases for a better experience with this website.