When you want to buy something, whether a necessity or a splurge purchase, you can do it within seconds online. Heck, you can even do it on your iPhone or other mobile phone. As long as you have an internet connection you can buy virtually anything.
Consumers are lazy and would rather buy something online, whether it be from Amazon or an e-commerce website they stumble on after searching on Google or clicking on an ad. There are new online stores being launched every day and not all of them are above board in terms of being legit.
From all out scams to poorly managed companies that are a nightmare to deal with in terms of customer service and shipping. So, what can you do to make sure you only do business with legit online stores? I put together a few tips that should help you below.
Make Sure the Website is Secure
When you look at your internet browser screen you want to look at the website address. Is there a http or https in front of their domain? If it’s not https then leave. It’s not secure.
Many browsers will show a green trust seal or a green padlock icon to signal that the website is indeed secure.
Most credit card processors require a site be encrypted with SSL technology, so if a non-secure site is operational there is a good chance there is something to worry about. It’s a major red flag.
If you send your credit card details through a website that is not secure that can lead to the theft of your information and a bunch of headaches down the line. Don’t risk it, no matter how good the deal sounds.
Look for Detailed Contact Information
This takes just a second and will tell you a lot. Do they have a customer service phone number? A physical business address? Email support? Live-chat support? If they only have a generic contact form with no other details it’s not worth risking it.
What happens if something is wrong? It’s going to be a nightmare to get in touch with them. If a website is lacking that information it could be that it’s a one-man operation and a “business” that is being run out of an apartment.
You need to have a good feeling that you are dealing with indeed a legitimate company.
The experiences and opinions of past customers will tell you a lot. Look for reviews on the website itself, but remember that those can be edited, monitored and even faked by the business.
The reviews you want to focus on are found on Facebook, Google and other third-party websites and review sites. This will give you a good indication of what type of company you are potentially dealing with.
Remember that no business can please everyone, so a couple unsatisfied customers shouldn’t totally scare you off. But if it’s a wall of negativity and horror stories that should be a major red flag and a sign that you need to shop elsewhere.
Do a Google Search on the Company
Google tells all. It’s very hard for a shady company to hide these days. A simple search of “[company name] scam” or “[company name] review” will typically turn up anything you need to be aware of.
Be aware that some companies pay marketing companies a lot of money to push the negative information off the first page of Google, so be sure to dive deep through the first few pages to make sure they aren’t trying to cover up the dirt with advertorial fluff articles.
Use Common Sense
This is a big one, and sadly something not everyone does.
If a deal or offer sounds way too good to be true then it probably is. Sure, some websites will have great specials, but if it’s almost unbelievable then you will probably be disappointed in the end. Also, use a credit card rather than a debit card if you can. It’s much easier to charge back a credit card purchase than a debit card purchase. Even if you don’t like credit cards it’s a good idea to have one that you use for online shopping for this very reason.
Lori is a consumer activist that thrives on bringing important information to the attention of the public. She is an avid e-commerce junky who is fascinated with online business.