There’s no question that online shopping has become a ubiquitous way for people to find and get what they want relatively quickly. Every year, it becomes more and more popular.
When something is that popular, it’s inevitable that scammers and other cybercriminal enterprises will take advantage to try and make a quick buck. What’s not inevitable is your falling for an online deal that turns out to be too good to be true.
To be safe and smart when shopping online, here are a few safety tips that you should keep in mind:
Make Sure the Site is Legitimate
Many of the larger online retailers are easy to verify. However, if you find something to purchase on a site that you don’t recognize, you need to make sure that the site—and the product in which you’re interested—in on the up and up.
Check out the site’s “About Us” page. Or look the site up in a general online search. Try to find out more about the company’s leadership and organizational structure. If the only information you find is super-general or otherwise secret, you may need to wonder why and try going somewhere else.
Verify That the Checkout Process is Secure
To keep your payment information from being visible or vulnerable to hackers, a site’s checkout process should be obviously secure. Check the site for proof of encryption when processing credit cards and maintaining your personal information, such as an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer). This ensures that your payment information will go directly from you to the site, without being intercepted by anyone mid-transmission.
Use One Credit Card
Use just one credit card for all of your online shopping. By restricting yourself to one form of payment, you make it easier on yourself to keep track of your online purchases. And you also make it easier to quickly identify if something’s wrong.
If a site offers it, you could also choose to use Paypal or some other online payments system. This option ensures extra payment security from their end, as well as dispute resolution services if a transaction goes awry.
Check Out Customer Reviews
You can get a better feel for an obscure site, its processes and products by seeing what other users have to say about it. You can look up the site on any number of public review sites to see ratings and reviews about it.
While this can be a good way to get a better feel about a site, it’s important to keep in mind the unfortunate practice of review seeding. A site could flood review sites with positive reviews, which could give you an overly good view of it. At the other end, a few angry customers (or even competitors) could unfairly skew your view to the negative.
To get closer to the truth about a site, your best bet would be to focus on any middle-range ratings and reviews (such as two to four stars, on a scale of one to five).
When you find a product you want, the impulse is naturally to buy it right away. But it could behove you to look for that same product at different online retailers. Odds are it will be pretty much the same across different sites.
But on the other hand, you may note discrepancies in pricing, images or the description of the product. If the price for a product on one site is quite a bit different from others, or images are poor quality, that could be a red flag that the product is a knock-off or otherwise fraudulent. In that case, you would do best to go to one of the other sites to make your purchase.
When faced with a product that you really want online, it can be hard to pause and take efforts to make sure that it’s really as good a deal as it seems. But just consider how taking a few minutes, in the beginning, can save you hours of trouble and heartache later.