How to identify dropshipped products and avoid falling prey to them

The exact portable charger you find in an online marketplace for $100 could be priced at just $30 when bought directly from the manufacturer.

Chloe Tham

Chooses to watch the same three movies in rotation instead of catching a new one.

Published: 16 June 2023, 11:33 AM

You are bombarded with advertisements of an air purifier on various social media platforms. You then see a plethora of positive reviews and endorsements made by influencers. Convinced, you spend over $300 dollars on a set.

Months later, you chance upon another e-commerce site selling an air purifier practically identical to the one you own – except it is less than half the price you paid. It is also sold without the brand’s logo.

This is likely due to a business model known as dropshipping.

Dropshipping involves a seller ordering goods from a supplier, repackaging (sometimes marketing the product as their own) and selling them at a marked up price for profit. Some products can also be of low quality despite its high selling price.

For a long time, it has been debated among consumers about the ethics behind such a practice.

While some buy from dropshippers due to practical reasons like accessibility and convenience, many others fall prey unknowingly. Such unethical practices by dropshippers can result in customers spending way more money than they need.

To safeguard yourself from being a potential victim, here are some ways to tell if the platform you’re buying from dropships its products:

1. Reverse image search

The Google Lens function allows online users to find visually similar images from around the web. This can help you to identify potential dropshipping websites since they tend to use the same stock photos as their suppliers to market the products.

You can visit the Google Lens page or click on the camera icon in the Google search engine and upload a file of the picture. Alternatively, you can copy and paste a link of the picture after clicking on the camera icon.

Shopee, Carousell and other ecommerce platforms also have an image search function in their respective apps.


The camera icon in the Shopee search bar allows users to upload pictures to look for items. PHOTO CREDIT: SHOPEE SINGAPORE


The search results may include objects in the image, similar images or websites with the image, which allows users to differentiate between the dropshipping store and original source of the product.

2. Investigate the shop's webpage

Dropshipping websites are usually characterised with bad grammar, product image inconsistencies and no indication of the shop’s history or where the goods originated from.

The inconsistent style of pictures indicates that the business likely does not take their own product photos and might use images from other sites.

Another red flag is the concealment of information about the shop. You should check if the page lists a legitimate company address and contact details.


Investigating a brand’s social media page for comments with customer feedback and partnerships could also indicate its legitimacy. PHOTO CREDIT: PEXELS/PAVEL DANILYUK


You can also monitor the catalogue over the course of a few weeks or months to find out if the “discounted” prices are consistent. Many of such sites would claim to hold seasonal sales when in fact the “original” prices are marked up decoys.

3. Browse through discussion forums for existing conversations

Certain websites may fabricate their product reviews as a tactic to convince consumers to purchase their goods. This could come in the form of brand employees writing biassed reviews, or paying influencers to put in a good word for the brand. 

While this does not apply to every online store, it is advisable to find out more about a brand through external sources to get organic feedback.

Discussion forum sites like Reddit and Trustpilot can be sources of information when it comes to determining the authenticity and credibility of a business.

Many users on these sites tend to share their genuine personal experiences with customer service and product quality. Some would also reveal sources where you can purchase the original product at a much lower price.

While dropshipping need not necessarily be “wrong”, some sellers can be deceitful. It might be a good idea to do your research and safeguard yourself from purchasing possibly low quality products at a high price.

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