We’re in the middle of the holiday season. Families gather, food and drink are bountiful, and the weather is getting more and more romantic.
Light a fire and sit under a blanket with someone you like, and feelings are sure to come out. It’s no surprise that the holiday season is one of the most popular times of year for engagements.
In fact, December is the most popular month to pop the question.
Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the snow, and maybe it’s the alcohol, but for some reason, couples just love to elope during the holiday season.
If you plan on popping the question anytime soon, you’re certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to a ring!
With sales everywhere and constant promotions from big name stores, you can easily get overwhelmed when walking around the ribbon- and bell-adorned halls of your local mall.
But there’s an increasingly popular way to buy an engagement ring that can save you from your head spinning like a sugarplum fairy.
Online retailers are quickly becoming the stores of choice for aspiring grooms and brides. With big names like JCPenney’s, Kay, and Blue Nile turning their attention to online clients, it certainly makes sense to check out what they have to offer.
Often, online stores have lower prices.
But there is a crucial element that many consumers feel they lack when shopping online – safety.
Is it really safe to buy an engagement ring online?
The short answer is yes!
But it’s important to take into account some of the things you can do to save yourself from any scammers that might wish you harm.
We always recommend that you only buy from reputable online ring and diamond retailers. Click here to check out our list of trusted engagement ring sellers.
Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are very direct, some are very subtle. Some of them are very dumb, some are very smart.
The only thing that every scammer has in common is their unified goal: to get money out of your pocket and into theirs in a dishonest manner.
Last year, Americans lost over $1.38 billion (yes, billion) to scams. That number goes up every year. It’s more important than ever to ensure your safety when engaging in any online transaction.
$1.38 billion – The amount lost to scams in 2018
When it comes to buying an engagement ring online, most scams can be broken down into 4 categories. Let’s dig into those now.
Category 1: Failures-of-Service
In this popular scam, the thief will create a spoof website that may look like a legitimate business. It might even have a recognizable name.
You go on the site, find the ring you want, and pay through the business’s website directly. You wait for the ring to show up, only to be left with no word from the company at all.
Sometimes, you’ll even try to go back onto their site only to find that it has been deleted. This is a failure-of-service scam.
Category 2: Phishing
Phishing is a more subtle scam that often has no direct effect on the victim. Essentially, the scammer will create a fake website designed to trick you into giving them some personal information.
This can range from email addresses and names to more serious stuff like account logins, credit card info, and social security numbers.
Sometimes, the victim won’t even notice the scam. In its least harmful form, this scam manifests as those weird “HOT PICS NOW” emails that just go straight to your spam folder.
In its most harmful form, it manifests as an emptied bank account or a stolen identity.
Category 3: The Bait-and-Switch
The “bait-and-switch” is as old as time itself. It even happens in-person (typically in gold markets in foreign countries or when buying second-hand.)
The basis of the scam is pretty simple. You pay top dollar for what you presume to be a genuine product. You receive the product only to find out it’s a complete fake or a different product entirely. Heartbreaking.
One of the biggest scam industries is actually rooted in the bait-and-switch concept: counterfeiting. A counterfeit is a product that is not genuine, but that is made to look like the real thing.
Often, these products imitate expensive designer gear like Gucci and Chanel. Recently, police confiscated over $2.2 million worth of fake Nikes!
Category 4: In-Person Assault
Let me preface this by saying that I never recommend buying a second hand ring online unless you personally take it to a jeweler for authentication.
When buying second-hand engagement rings through online websites like Craigslist, Letgo, and Offerup, it’s important to understand that you will eventually be meeting up with a stranger face-to-face (that is, unless you have the item in question shipped).
While these arrangements typically go off without a hitch, occasionally, a bad egg will come out of the fold who wishes to do others harm.
Our scariest category, in-person assaults often have the most severe consequences. Murder, sexual assault, and muggings are on that list. It’s a good thing this is the rarest form of “scam” on our list.
How to Stay Safe When Buying an Engagement Ring Online
The good news in all this is that your average scammer is pretty easy to spot. In fact, sleuthing them out can actually be kind of fun!
Most of the time, scams will be pretty obvious. It’ll involve bad spelling, awful grammar, a “seller” that wants way too much information, etc.
What we need to dive into is the methodology of sniffing out the scams that are a little bit more subtle.
Identifying a Sketchy Website
These websites will often have poor spelling and grammar. It will sometimes read as though they do not understand or speak English very well.
A legitimate company is not going to have basic mechanical errors like that, as they employ content editors and professional web developers to ensure everything is on target. A scammer doesn’t have the budget for that.
Coupled with that point is the tendency for scam websites to be rather poorly designed. Because the site’s purpose is to scam, it obviously can’t exist for very long without being added to blacklists or being taken down.
As a result, the scammer has to continually rebuild his website. This must be done quickly and, therefore, makes the site look pretty horrible.
Sometimes, these sites are designed to get as much revenue as possible from each visitor. They will often use advertisements as a way to get a fraction of a cent per view.
Now, obviously, a big reputable brand isn’t going to advertise on these sites. That would tarnish their name as a reliable, trustworthy business.
The scam site, therefore, relies on disreputable companies to advertise on their website. This manifests as those weird pop-ups you see sometimes that want you to buy weird pills or a timeshare in Mexico.
That’s a telltale sign of a scam site.
Identifying a Safe Website
There are a few steps you can take to make a judgment as to whether or not a site is actually legit.
First, look at the reviews for the business you’re buying from. Are they good? Does there seem to be a stream of people saying that they had a good experience with the company?
Make sure you look closely at the reviewers’ profiles too.
Sometimes, scammers will have fake reviews up for their business. If all of the reviews lack profile pictures or have names that don’t look quite right, it may be worth investigating further.
Another way to tell if a site is legit is to look at the way it’s built. Is everything spelled right? Are there any weird ads? Does it generally look sloppy? If so, it could be a scammer.
When you’re about to enter any of your information on a site, take a glance to the left of the URL bar. On most browsers, there will be a small icon of a padlock, used to indicate whether or not the site has valid SSL security.
SSL certificates are the new standard in website security, and almost every legitimate site has it. If the site you’re on doesn’t have a green padlock, or if it says “Not Secure” next to the URL, DO NOT enter any personal information on the site. It could get scraped by a third party.
The only businesses that don’t have SSL are either very small mom-and-pop businesses or, you guessed it, scammers.
Finally, there are other things to look at when browsing a website for engagement rings. Try to find something on the site that says “Verified Seller” or “Authorized Dealer”, as well as an endorsement by the Better Business Bureau. While these things can be easy faked, it can add another layer of peace of mind when shopping online.
How to Stay Safe During In-Person Meets
There’s one strategy we haven’t talked about yet when it comes to buying engagement rings safely, and that’s how to stay safe in an in-person meet up.
If you decide to purchase a ring second hand, and you are meeting up with a stranger to make the trade, do these things to minimize your chances of damage or injury should you happen to encounter one of those “bad eggs”:
- Only meet in public places, such as a mall or Starbucks. Never meet in a residence.
- Bring a friend to back you up or call for help if anything goes wrong.
- Before the meeting, try to find the seller on social media to make sure they’re legit.
Following those rules won’t guarantee your safety, but they certainly boost your chances of coming out okay.
Let’s talk action. Coming now is a list of specific tactics you can employ when trying to find an engagement ring online.
- The Domain Name Check – If you’re on the site of a big company like Cartier, Kay, etc., there’s a simple check you can do to make sure you’re actually on their site, and not a spoof site. Make a note of the URL of the site you’re on. For example, imagine is says www.kayengagementrings.com. Seems innocent enough, right? But if you do a search for “Kay Jewelers”, you will quickly find their actual website, which has the domain www.kay.com. Scammers might be able to spoof the look of a website really well, but the domain cannot be spoofed. Always double check the domain.
- The Location Check – If you’re on a website for a business you haven’t heard of or if you’re otherwise not so sure about a website, one way to quickly make an assessment is through hostingchecker.com. Just enter the jewelry site’s URL in the box and hit enter. Hosting Checker will spit out a ton of useful information, including the hosting provider and the location.
If the location is India, China or any other Asian or African country, be on alert. Obviously, there are tons of great, legitimate businesses from these areas.
However, there is a higher concentration of scammers from these areas working their tricks in America than there are from other areas of the globe.
- Trust your security software – This is a pretty simple one. Security software is pretty good these days. If you get a message warning you about a site’s security, just get out of there. Usually, your security software is right.
- Healthy Skepticism – Does the deal you’re looking at seem too good to be true? It probably is. Scammers often use low prices to try and lure victims in. A huge sale or a weirdly fast delivery time might be an indicator that you’re facing a scam.
So…Is It Safe to Buy an Engagement Ring Online?
Look, we know it can be really exciting to look for a ring. In general, so long as you stick to mainstream sites, you’re 100% safe buying an engagement ring online.
In all honestly, we actually recommend it – buying an engagement ring online help you get much better value for your money because you’re able to avoid the retailer markup.
But make no mistake: Scammers are out there.
If you follow the rules and methods we mentioned above, you can give yourself relative peace of mind that you ring will arrive safely.
Take a deep breath, keep your wits, and try to cherish the once-in-a-lifetime experience of your engagement!