The Temu app is one of the most downloaded apps in the world, in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. The Chinese-based company connects shoppers and sellers in an online marketplace that promises consumers some of the best deals in the world. Yet, the popular company has quickly come under scrutiny, leading some to wonder, “Is Temu a scam?”
While Temu definitely has legitimate sellers, new users should definitely adopt a “buyer beware’ attitude before downloading the app — and be aware of the potential security risks for their devices.
Here’s what you should know before you start using Temu.
What is Temu?
Temu is an online marketplace established by the Chinese e-commerce company PDD Holdings Inc. Its U.S. headquarters are located in Boston.
The marketplace offers deals on nearly any type of product imaginable — almost always at a deeply discounted price.
Its business model is similar to other online marketplaces such as Amazon and its fellow Chinese-run marketplace Shein. Temu allows shoppers and sellers to do business with each other directly without third-party retailers and distributors.
This allows sellers on Temu to offer some seemingly “too good to be true” values.
Why is it so cheap?
Temu is supposedly so cheap because consumers are dealing with the original seller instead of a third party. Temu also operates under a “loss leader” model — encouraging sellers to lower their profit margins in order to increase the company’s market share.
These two factors enable Temu to steeply discount the products available on the site. But many allege that isn’t the only reason prices are so jaw-droppingly low on the app.
Is Temu a scam? (In other words, can you trust it?)
Low prices are what’s good about Temu. Now let’s look at some of what’s bad.
In its just over one year-long existence, Temu has already developed a bad reputation due to what Time Magazine listed as “undelivered packages, mysterious charges, incorrect orders, and unresponsive customer service.”
The company has been the target of several complaints to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and currently holds only a C+ rating with the consumer protection organization.
A joint investigation by the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission did not outright declare the site as unsafe but did state that “lack of affiliation with established brands has brought concerns of product quality as well as accusations of copyright infringement,” were cause for concern.
Are the products legit?
When it comes to quality, “you get what you pay for” is a good general rule of thumb on Temu. If something seems like an unbelievable bargain, chances are fairly high that you will receive a “knock-off” or generic version of whatever you ordered.
In many cases, these versions are of inferior quality and shouldn’t be expected to last very long.
Hicober — a company that sells hair towels on Amazon — is one of several companies that have sued Temu for selling knockoffs of their product.
In addition, Shein, a China-based company that follows a business model similar to Temu, has sued them for copying merchandise listings, according to the BakerHostetler law firm, and hiring social media influencers to disparage the Shein brand.
That said, the site features many name-brand products designated with a blue checkmark. These products are generally trustworthy.
Are there privacy concerns with Temu?
One of the biggest emergent concerns about the Temu app is its security risks. One shopper, as covered by the Daily Dot, contended that her American Express credit card information was stolen after shopping on Temu.
Data mining happens in most Western companies as a matter of market research, but Chinese companies are often obliged, and even required in some cases, to hand over their information to the state government.
Temu collects a wide array of data on you including your name, phone number, address, and birthdate, and even gains access to your social media photos, and social security number.
According to Steve Bernas, President and CEO of Chicago BBB, downloading the app and using it essentially starts a file on you.
“The more information they get, the easier it is to steal their identity, especially with a company tied with China. You don’t know where it’s going, and the government has issued many warnings over the years. Because once you have all that data, they can use that data to harm the U.S. in some way,” Bernas claims.
The final word on Temu
If you are truly desperate for a “good bargain” on Temu, you have to accept a fair amount of risks, both to your wallet and your statistics. However, if you are willing to accept the risks and stick to blue-check items you may find some good deals.
Just don’t expect to find any $30 Nikes. And remember, Big Brother will probably be watching you.