In our previous lesson, we introduced you to how AliExpress works. Now, you may be thinking that, with the ability to purchase wholesale goods inexpensively straight from Chinese manufacturers, there must be some sort of catch to using AliExpress.com, right? Well, like any business transaction — especially one carried out online — there is a chance for things to go sideways when you order from AliExpress. Not to worry, though; this lesson will discuss the legitimacy, reliability, and safety of buying goods from AliExpress, and explain at least five precautions that you should take in order to shop safely on the website.
Is AliExpress legit?
AliExpress is run by the Alibaba Group, one of the largest retail and Internet companies in the world, so it's definitely legit. Like for most e-commerce websites, the question of AliExpress's legitimacy revolves around whether or not its users – both buyers and sellers – conduct business in a legal manner.
Is AliExpress reliable?
The reliability of AliExpress depends somewhat on how close you are to mainland China, where most of its sellers are located. The further away you are, the more likely that you'll run into logistics problems. And, of course, its reliability depends on the ability of its users to conduct business legally.
How safe is AliExpress?
AliExpress is safe to buy from if you're vigilant and use common sense. You are allowed to get refunds or exchanges if your order doesn't arrive on time, or is significantly different than advertised. However, it is still possible to get scammed, especially with low prices on brand-name objects.
A detailed explanation of how safe AliExpress is:
AliExpress has taken several initiatives to protect you as a buyer. Our article on the website's return policies will show you how to take advantage of the following protections:
If your order does not arrive within the latest estimated delivery date promised by your seller, you can request a full refund.
If your order arrives and one or more of your items are significantly different than they were advertised, you can either return the items for a full refund, or keep the items and request a partial refund.
If an item you have ordered is "Guaranteed Genuine" and it turns out to be counterfeit when you receive it, you can return it for a full refund… including the shipping costs!
Despite these protections being in place, however, there have been cases of buyers being defrauded by sellers on AliExpress. It is, after all, like many e-commerce websites: the actual sellers are third parties, and the company is just the "middleman" that processes the deals. Fortunately, AliExpress has also provided buyers with several tips on how to avoid getting scammed while shopping on their website, which we will now pass along to you.
Top 5 tips for buying items safely on AliExpress
1. Check an AliExpress seller's feedback scores before you buy from them.
A basic thing that you can do to avoid sketchy sellers is to see what other people have said about products that they have ordered from a seller before you buy from that seller. On the whole, seller reviews should give you a somewhat reliable indication of whether or not you're buying from a retailer who's on the level.
2. If a price on AliExpress seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you see an item being sold at a price that seems too low to be reasonable, shop around to see what similar products are selling for on AliExpress or another e-commerce website. If the item's price is about 30% or more below what it's being sold for elsewhere, chances are good that either the item is counterfeit or the seller is trying to scam you.
This is especially important when you're looking to buy products from popular brand names, especially electronics manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, Canon, or Nokia. These brands often institute international price controls, so even if their products are manufactured in China, it doesn't necessarily mean that Chinese distributors are allowed to sell their products at below-market prices. Again, in a situation like this, chances are that you're walking right into either a scam or a counterfeit deal.
3. Never give your personal information to an AliExpress seller, or follow them to a website that asks you for it.
While it's rare, a seller may contact you directly and ask you for your personal information. They may also take a more subtle approach and direct you to go to an external website, where you are asked to log in with your AliExpress account name and password. They will usually claim that this is necessary in order to process your transaction in some way (e.g. complete your payment or track your order).
In either case, don't give them any of your personal or financial information. It is almost certainly an attempt at identity theft, either by getting you to willingly give up your personal information or by stealing it via a phony website. You may also want to report the seller to AliExpress; see our instructions for how to contact AliExpress customer service to learn how to file a complaint.
4. Never directly pay an AliExpress seller for an order or item; use AliExpress's internal payment system.
It's also a rare occurrence, but a seller may ask you to pay for an order or item directly through a money order or some other service outside of AliExpress. You should avoid doing this, as it leaves you vulnerable to getting scammed or having your personal information stolen (as we mentioned in the previous tip). Instead, report this kind of behaviour to customer service.
There are two additional reasons why you shouldn't pay a seller outside of AliExpress. You are not only losing the protection and oversight of AliExpress in your transaction, but you are also likely helping the seller cheat AliExpress out of their sale commission.
5. Never confirm delivery of an item or order from AliExpress before you actually receive it.
AliExpress doesn't release your payment to the seller until you have confirmed that you have received your order or item from them. However, in rare cases, a seller may ask you to confirm delivery of your order before you receive it (e.g. because they need the money to pay off other expenses). This is a potential red flag that someone is attempting to scam you.
Not only should you ignore any request to pre-emptively confirm delivery of your item or order, but you should also check your item or order carefully when you receive it (if you even receive it at all) to make sure that it is not defective or counterfeit.
For other examples and safety tips, see these articles on AliExpress about common selling scams and common payment scams. We hope this information leads to a safe and satisfying shopping experience! Next, we'll do an in-depth review of AliExpress and summarize some of the major reasons why you may or may not want to use it.