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If you’ve ever browsed AliExpress, you may have noticed that some of the prices are cheap — in some cases suspiciously so. But as with many other platforms on the internet, there are bad actors who misuse AliExpress for nefarious purposes.
The truth is that AliExpress doesn’t actually sell goods, it just provides an e-commerce platform on which third parties can sell their products. Thus, AliExpress has created a buyer protection program to help you receive the quality products you purchased.
We’ll walk you through what makes AliExpress safe to use, some common AliExpress scams, and how to stay safe while online shopping by using the best password managers and other cybersecurity tips.
Is AliExpress safe?
What are the risks of using AliExpress?
How to stay safe while shopping online
Is AliExpress legit?
AliExpress was founded in 2010 and — like its parent company Alibaba Group — started out as a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace. It eventually transitioned into a business-to-consumer (B2C) sales service that distributes items from Chinese manufacturers. Today, AliExpress is incredibly popular for shoppers in Russia, Europe, and Latin America and is among the largest retailers in the world.
Although there are some unscrupulous sellers on AliExpress, it’s a completely legitimate enterprise and a great place to get a good deal if you know how to shop safely.
Is AliExpress safe?
Even though AliExpress is a reliable place to find goods at discounted prices, it’s still prone to shopping scams and cybersecurity risks. AliExpress knows this and takes some measures to protect buyers through its Buyer Protection Program.
AliExpress offers buyer protection that essentially works as a money-back guarantee. You can get a full refund plus the shipping cost within the buyer protection period (75 days) for items that never arrive, are damaged, or aren’t as advertised in the product description.
You can start by contacting the seller and opening a dispute. If the seller doesn’t make contact or your issue isn’t resolved, you can contact AliExpress customer support.
However there are items that are excluded from the AliExpress Buyer Protection Program, including:
- Custom-made/personalized items
- Perishables (like food, dairy, eggs, and flowers) or fragile items
- Items that aren’t returnable because of hygienic or health reasons, such as underwear, toothpaste, or lotion
- Items damaged by the buyer
- Items that have been used by the buyer to the point where they have decreased in value
- Items that have decreased in value because of the passage of time
- Copyable items with damaged seals/packaging (such as unwrapped CDs, DVDs, and computer software)
AliExpress uses an escrow system; it holds payments until the buyer confirms that the package has arrived and is correct. This system should instill some trust in shoppers who are skeptical about purchasing items internationally and it helps combat scammers who try to take payment without shipping a sold product.
Buyers can also rate and review sellers, which can help educate shoppers about sellers with bad reputations. Additionally, AliExpress handles all payment information, if you link your credit or debit card to AliPay, which keeps sensitive buyer details away from potentially sketchy third-party sellers. AliExpress also uses other digital wallet services like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay as payment methods for your peace of mind.
Is my data safe with AliExpress?
Whenever you shop online, you need to inevitably relinquish some of your private information in order to participate in the exchange of goods, including your identity, shipping, and payment information. AliExpress has a good track record for securing this type of information and protects it by using parent company Alibaba’s security technology, called the Alibaba Cloud — an AI risk analysis and security identification solution.
However, it has become commonplace for online platforms like AliExpress to collect and share additional user data for a variety of purposes, such as to prevent fraud, improve the user experience, and most notably, for targeted advertising.
- Details of transactions and communications over the platform
- Details of platform buying
- Browsing activities and patterns
- IP addresses
- Unique device identification numbers
Most shoppers might not consider this type of collection as an invasion of privacy, as other technology corporations like Meta and Google perform the same practices. If you have privacy concerns, you should either avoid shopping on AliExpress or invest in a virtual private network (VPN) to limit the amount of personal information AliExpress can access.
- High-quality VPN offering safety and speed
- Loads of servers for multiple connection options
- Works with popular streaming services, including Netflix
- Too many confusing plans
What are the risks of using AliExpress?
Much like other online marketplaces, AliExpress poses some risks to shoppers. Here’s a list of some of the most common scams you may encounter on the AliExpress platform:
- Counterfeit items: Name-brand items listed at suspiciously low prices may be counterfeit products, which would technically infringe on intellectual property rights.
- Phishing scams: Some scammers will send fake emails or messages pretending to be AliExpress in an attempt to fool you into giving up sensitive personal information or payment details.
- Brushing scams: This scam involves a seller that uses fake accounts to buy their own products in order to make their store look legitimate. In some cases, the scammer will ship these items to unsuspecting people, hoping that they might leave a positive review for the store. In other cases, the scammer will write their own fake product reviews to create a false history of successful and honest transactions.
- Paying outside AliExpress: In some scams, sellers will try to trick buyers into paying outside of AliExpress. If the buyer is fooled and agrees to do this, AliExpress has no recourse if the seller decides to take the money and run.
- Fake package/item scams: Also called ship-and-switch, the seller sends incorrect, cheaper, or poor quality products hoping that the buyer either won’t notice or won’t create a dispute with AliExpress.
- Fake store/seller: Fake sellers will usually create multiple fake accounts and list products that don’t exist in an attempt to take payments and then close the accounts without ever shipping a product. These scams generally attempt to avoid AliExpress escrow by convincing buyers to render payment outside AliExpress.
- Fake tracking numbers: A scammer may send fake tracking numbers with the hope that the buyer won’t check them immediately and realize they’re fake.
How to stay safe while shopping online
You might never want to do any online shopping again knowing about all the scams that are out there. However, there are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself and your sensitive personal information safe.
Here are some tips you should always apply while shopping online:
- Never give away personal/payment information: Once you’ve signed up with a marketplace like AliExpress, it has your payment and shipping information in its system so there’s virtually never any reason to hand this information out again. This includes your email and phone number, which are commonly used for phishing.
- Read user reviews: Always browse a seller’s ratings and reviews before buying from them. If a seller is listing multiple items but has few to no reviews, it could be a red flag that it’s a fake account. Additionally, you could discover reviews from past buyers who were scammed or mistreated by the seller.
- Scrutinize item listings: Some sellers will post deliberately misleading prices on items they’re selling. For example, a flashlight might be listed for $1.00, but when you click the listing the price jumps up to $10. Sellers get away with this because the lower price might apply to a replacement battery pack that can be added on with the purchase of the flashlight.
- Use unique, strong passwords: Using unique passwords for your AliExpress account can limit the damage that might occur if other aspects of your online presence are compromised in a data leak or hack.
- Stay away from name-brand deals: Popular brand-name items that are listed at very low prices are almost always going to be some sort of scam. This is especially true for western brands, as they don’t tend to sell directly on AliExpress. Stick to buying from the brand itself, unless you think rolling the dice is worth it — which it rarely is.
- Avoid extremely low prices: Compare prices for items that seem suspiciously cheap. If the price for an item is ludicrously low, chances are it’s part of a scam.
- Always confirm tracking numbers: Make a habit of always checking your tracking numbers. If they end up being fake, you can immediately contact AliExpress for a dispute.
- Check the contents of your package: AliExpress uses an escrow system that holds payment until the buyer sends confirmation that the item has arrived and is correct. Always open your package and inspect the contents, ensuring that the item you received is correct and in the proper state before confirming to AliExpress that the delivery was successful.
Best password managers to keep your data safe
For an easy way to create and store secure passwords, you can invest in a password manager. Many of the best password managers provide password generators and use military-grade encryption, along with many other useful features.
Here are some recommendations for password managers:
- NordPass: From the makers of NordVPN, NordPass is an affordable password manager with the security chops to match its parent company. It uses XChaCha20 encryption and zero-knowledge encryption.
- Aura: Aura isn’t just a password manager, it’s an identity theft protection suite with a number of cybersecurity features including identity theft insurance, a VPN, antivirus, and more.
- Roboform: Roboform is an easy-to-use password manager with a comprehensive free version and a premium version with plenty of useful features.
- Strong encryption and security
- User-friendly interface
- Free version is limited to one device at a time
Is it safe to buy on AliExpress?
Yes, generally speaking, AliExpress is a safe platform to shop on, but — much like other online marketplaces — it’s not scam free. Shoppers should educate themselves about the red flags for common scams that occur on AliExpress and use common sense and intuition to make the safest purchases.
How to tell if an AliExpress seller is legit?
Legit AliExpress sellers will have a history of positive feedback and ratings that should point to honest trading behavior. New accounts selling many items are big red flags that could be phony accounts that are created to dupe customers.
Why is AliExpress so cheap?
AliExpress is cheap because of the low production costs in China combined with the fact that buyers are often purchasing directly from the manufacturer. This business model means there is no added cost of a middleman, which reduces the overall price of items.
Can I trust AliExpress with my credit card?
Yes, AliExpress protects your payment information much in the same way that other online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay do. That being said, data breaches happen to even the largest of corporations, so it’s impossible to predict with complete certainty that AliExpress will always be able to keep your data secure.
Shopping on AliExpress may seem risky at first, but in truth it's a safe marketplace that is owned by the legitimate corporate parent company, Alibaba Group. Additionally, AliExpress protects buyers with its Buyer Protection Program and through its payment escrow system.
But much like with other online stores, scams persist. Potential shoppers should watch out for common scams and be suspicious when a listing doesn’t seem quite right. Take the extra step to read seller reviews and always use safe cybersecurity practices. Better yet, consider protecting your identity with one of the best identity theft protection services.
- Excellent identity theft protection service
- Includes a password manager and VPN
- Robust tools for children’s security
- Provides VantageScore and not FICO score updates