Researching Third-party Sellers on Marketplace Review Websites, Social Media
This article is the second in a three-part series regarding investigating third-party online sellers. Be sure to check out the first article, “Investigation Basics: Uncovering Third-Party Online Sellers” which appeared as a guest post on the Wiser Solutions’ blog and part three, "Conducting Product Buys As Part of a Successful Investigation Strategy," post on this blog.
In our first article on the basics of seller investigations, we mentioned taking advantage of search engines. Any investigating party that has even the slightest bit of information should consider going to Google or another search engine and running a search of that information.
Often, when searching a seller’s storefront/username on Google, one of the top results is a page on the website MarketplacePulse.com.
The following screenshot is an example of a seller listing on Marketplace Pulse:
More often than not, such a page will list the state where the seller is likely located. This information can be used in several different ways, including an investigator going to the Secretary of the State website for that particular state and running a search for a potential corporate entity with that name.
You can also find other potentially useful information on Marketplace Pulse, such as previous seller names, which you can search on Google or social media.
The information on this website is not guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate. However, it can be a good guiding piece.
Of course, some unauthorized third-party sellers sell several products, while others may sell one or two. In the latter scenario, it might be worth investigating. In fact, the manufacturer might consider just buying the products.
Not only will this get the products off the website or marketplace, but they could still get some useful seller information (such as a return address). Even if it costs $100 to buy the products, this would likely be less than actual investigation costs.
As you can see from the screenshot above, there is a hyperlink for contacting the seller. When it is worth investigating a seller, but it is difficult to track down any information about them, a simple email to them could make them stop.
Investigating social media for identifying information
Another sometimes helpful investigation technique is to run searches in social media. This tactic could be as simple as entering the storefront/username into the search bar on Facebook or Twitter and see if it produces any results.
Some sellers, for obvious reasons, will promote their stores on their social media pages. And, depending on how sophisticated a storefront might be, someone could even list that store as their company (or employer) on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Of course, there is always a chance that an online store has a social media account in the same (or very similar name).
Every investigation is different. You never know where a storefront name or a phone number, for example, could surface online. We have even seen instances in which some relevant information appeared on online dating profiles.
When you have a potential lead and can find a logo or photo, you can use that information to run a reverse image search – a topic discussed in the first post.
Similarly, what an investigator might learn through social media can then be run through sites like WhitePages Premium to help validate the data.
For WhitePages Premium to be valuable, you will need to have a good piece of data such as a phone number, address, name and city, for example.
Of course, WhitePages is not perfect. For example, it might not update its records if someone has moved away.
Thus, an investigating party that uses WhitePages Premium to identify a seller should strongly consider checking other sources to confirm the information.
For example, a person might consider running property record searches through a county assessor’s office to see if he or she can determine if the person still lives at the apparent address.