I’m sure online shopping is no mystery to most users. You just stick your credit card or PayPal info into the required fields and away we go. What I’ll be talking about is when you’re purchasing on unverified online shops or shops where you haven’t ever purchased anything and you don’t know anyone else either to ask him/her for opinion. Lets be honest, there are lots of scammers all over the net and no one wants to get scammed by them. Right? Here are few steps how to prevent that as much as possible…
Always make sure to check contact info. If online shop doesn’t provide any street address, phone number or any other “physical” ways of contacting them, it’s better to simply avoid such stores. If they mean serious business, they will provide company details clearly visible on their webpage.
Unless their street address is in Nigeria… In that case, avoid them altogether.
Online store verification process…
If you have found an online store without any references or other details it’s smart to first check its reputation and see what others think about it.
Enter online shop web address into following services to check their reputation:
http://www.webutation.net (not as trusted as WOT, but can still be useful resource)
http://www.scamadviser.com (useful details about the site/server and its location)
User ratings and reviews (companies/sellers may also participate here):
http://www.trustedshops.eu (also use shop name + trustedshops.eu in Google)
Check online shop malware distribution history and reputation:
Sometimes certain ratings are skewed or otherwise manipulated, in such cases it is smart to read more of them on all the above webpages and make a conclusion as a whole. Sometimes individual comments and reviews don’t make much sense, but if there is a repeating pattern, that can mean something…
Use search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo! for additional info:
Sometimes it helps to just type online shop web address into the search field and append words like “review”, “experience”, “opinion” (without quotes). This way you might find comments or reviews on personal blogs or forums that aren’t parts of dedicated webpage rating services.
Other prevention checks…
If company address is provided on the webpage and they also provide photos of their company building, warehouse or their office exterior on their webpage, you can combine their street address with Google Maps/Street View or Bing Maps and see if what they claim really exists at the specified location.
Use satellite view to see the actual landscape/building.
Payments and delivery…
Make sure you are viewing the correct currency so there won’t be any surprises later on after they bill your credit card. If PayPal payment is avalable, use it. It gives the user another safeguard against fraud or companies with very poor service (for example if items never gets delivered and company doesn’t reply to your phone calls or e-mails, you can contact PayPal and they will try to sort out the refund for you).
It is also important to check where the company is from and from where they’ll ship the items. If you are situated in the EU and goods will arrive from the US, expect customs fees and other additional costs that may not be evident during a checkout on the online store webpage!
Very important factor is also payment webpage encryption. If the form into which you’re about to enter credit card details isn’t located on the HTTPS web address (usually designated with a padlock in the browser URL bar), be very careful unless the webpage is really known safe and even that doesn’t guarantee anything. If webpage is not securely encrypted, your credit card details can be stolen during transaction between your computer and the online shop which may be perfectly legit but has been hacked. If connection is encrypted, you’ll most probably get a warning about secure connection being altered or broken in such cases, making it much more secure.
If webpage encryption certificate is invalid, broken or expired, be very careful! It is better to wait till they sort things out properly. Using such encryption may be insecure and can result in its abuse by the hackers or other baddies…
If you have other useful tips or you maybe know a good webpage rating and/or review website, post it here and I’ll check it out. After reviewing and testing the posted services, I’ll add them to the guide in order to further help others during online shopping.