Ordering from marketplace websites like Etsy can be scary.
Doubly so in fact, when you consider that Etsy is mostly made up of small, independent sellers rather than trustworthy businesses with a reputation to protect.
Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to question whether or not ordering on their platform is safe or not.
However, while there are a a few scammers on Etsy, the majority of sellers are perfectly legitimate, and even in the case of scams, Etsy should stand by you.
But how do you know if an Etsy seller is legit before purchasing? In this article, I’ll cover 6 top tips.
How To Tell If An Etsy Seller Is Legit
How do you tell if an Etsy seller is legit, or if they are a scammer?
Let’s look over some strategies you can use.
1. Good, Recent Reviews
The easiest and quickest way to do is to look at the reviews – not only for that specific listing, but for their entire shop as a whole.
Ideally, the shop owner will have a fairly consistent stream of positive reviews coming in, that go into specific details about the product and the shop.
However, don’t get fooled by high review counts, without looking at the dates. I’ve heard stories of people getting fed up with slow Etsy results, and starting to scam people (or severely downgrade their quality) long after their store has been established.
This is why recent reviews are key – if people are saying good things around the time you’ll be purchasing, you can have more assurance that you’ll have a good shopping experience as well.
2. Look For Signs Of Fake Reviews
Fake reviews on Etsy aren’t nearly as big of a problem as they are on websites like Amazon, but they still exist to a certain degree.
Just take a look at this picture, where somebody is clearly selling positive Etsy reviews:
Fortunately, there are a few telltale signs to know when fake Etsy reviews are being used.
The first is the reviews will generally be vague, as if they can be applied to any product and still make sense. For example, ‘My husband loved it’ or, ‘Good communication, shipped quickly.’
Legitimate reviews will often go into the specifics of the product. Of course, there are plenty of vague legitimate reviews too, but if they are ALL vague, this may be a red flag.
Secondly, pay attention to the review dates. If they all come in at once or they appear in batches (with a bunch coming in a few days, then no reviews for a long time) this is a sign of review manipulation. Real reviews will usually come in at a fairly consistent pace over time, with a spike during that product’s busy season.
Finally, pay attention to the reviewer themselves. Do they have real names and pictures? Are they speaking in broken English? Many review farms outsource work to countries in which English is not the primary language.
3. Look For The Star Seller Badge
The Star Seller badge was introduced in 2021, and is designed to highlight Etsy sellers that provide an outstanding customer experience.
The Star Seller badge requires sellers to respond to messages quickly, ship on time, and have recent positive reviews in order to be eligible.
While even this can be obtained illegitimately and there are plenty of legitimate shops that don’t have it, the Star Seller badge acts as an additional trust signal, that shows you can order with confidence from the shops that have it.
In order words, if a Star Seller badge is present, you can be pretty sure the seller is legit.
4. Inspect Their Images
One of the most common scams on Etsy has to do with sellers dropshipping low-quality items.
This means that they never actually have the item on hand. When you place your order, they in turn order it from somewhere else for a cheaper price, and ask the third-party to ship it to you themselves (thus pocketing the difference.)
I consider this a scam for a few reasons:
- The buyer thinks they’re ordering from a specific person, but they are really getting the product from someone else.
- The shop owner is overcharging while providing no additional value to the transaction.
- The most common places to dropship from are Aliexpress and Wish, both of which are known for poor quality.
- The item is almost certainly not handmade, which is one of Etsy’s key selling points.
But how do you know if an Etsy item is dropshipped? The easiest way is to look at the photos.
First things first, you may be able to simply type the item into a website like Aliexpress and find the exact same photo being used. A lot of dropshippers never actually receive the product, so they just take the photos that the manufacturer offers. You can see an example of this here:
Etsy Listing For $18:
The Same Exact Item And Photo On Aliexpress For 1 Cent + Shipping:
As you can see, these items are essentially the exact same.
Now, let me give the seller the benefit of the doubt. There’s a chance that they’ve bulk ordered this item and are actually holding it, and are able to get it to you more quickly – thus adding some value, at least. There’s also an extremely small chance that the Aliexpress seller copied the design.
However, this is almost never the case. Dropshipping has become a real problem on Etsy.
Reverse Image Searching Etsy Product Photos
Other than typing the name into Aliexpress, another way to find out if the photos are actually original is to do a reverse image search.
On Google Chrome, this can be done by right clicking the photo and clicking ‘Search image with Google Lens’.
In my experience, Google Lens is a bit buggy, but you’ll be able to reverse image search with another click of a button upon landing on the Google Lens page.
In the above example, I quickly discovered that this image appears on 1,520 pages on the web – including other big sites like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.
If this were this Etsy seller’s original design, they surely would have taken legal action by now, right?
Except it’s most certainly not, and they are most certainly a dropshipper / reseller. And with over 71,000 sales at the time of writing, a pretty successful one at that.
5. Look At The Items They Sell
Etsy is a marketplace for handmade items.
Making something by hand (or even with the assistance of machinery) has a certain set of requirements. Each item requires a specific process, specific materials, and a specific level of expertise and knowledge.
This means that most shop owners stick to selling one type of items, or keep their offerings very similar.
If you are truly making something by hand, adding different product lines makes you less efficient, and forces you to hold more money tied up in materials.
None of these are problems for scammers however. They may list hundreds of different items across all sorts of categories simply to see what sticks.
If the shop is selling a huge variety of items (all with professional looking photos) this may indicate that they are not legit.
6. Check Their Shop Information
Finally, you may consider checking out the seller’s shop information.
Specifically, you are looking for a few things:
- Do they maintain active social media channels?
- How long has their shop been in business?
- Does their level of sales make sense for the length of time they’ve been in business? Hundreds of sales for a shop started this month for example, may indicate something suspicious.
Again, not all new or small shops are scammers – the overwhelming majority are legitimate. But trust your intuition. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to order from someone else.
Etsy Has Got Your Back
You should always keep in mind that Etsy is very favorable towards buyers, so even if you’re on the fence about a purchase, you can usually go through with it without worrying.
Etsy’s policies will protect you from outright scams (such as the product never arriving.)
Where you may run into issues is in regards to shipping speed, and quality.
If the right product arrives to you at the right time, then in Etsy’s eyes the seller has fulfilled their end of the deal. This can cause frustration if the product quality isn’t up to par, or you’ve spent weeks waiting to find out that the product isn’t right for you.
If shopping for a gift or other time-sensitive occasion, I’ve heard of this being a major deal.
Therefore, it helps to purchase from the right seller from the very beginning, to save yourself unnecessary frustration.
In this article, we’ve covered 6 different ways to tell if an Etsy seller is legit or not.
While there aren’t a lot of outright scammers on Etsy (and Etsy will protect you if you are completely scammed), there is a huge problem with dropshippers and resellers at the moment.
I hope this article has been helpful for you. Of course, if you have any questions about Etsy scams or purchasing safely, please feel free to ask them using the comment form below.
– James McAllister