Purchasing items online has now become a way of life for many Americans; over of Americans 80% made at least one online purchase in the past month, according to BigComerce.com. While companies have been making strides to ensure the security of their online purchasing platforms, it’s best to remain cautious when completing online purchases. The number one rule of online purchasing is that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. How do you tell if a deal or a website is legitimate? We have compiled a list of the best tools for identifying and avoiding online shopping scams.
The URL Bar
Some online scammers clone or mimic popular sites. The practice involves creating a site that looks like a popular site such as eBay, Amazon.com or Target.com to lure potential customers into entering their payment information. You can avoid such scam sites by always checking the web address of the site that you land on. If the company’s name is misspelled or the URL has words like “deals”, “Specials”, “free” or other words that you wouldn’t expect from a brand web address, chances are you are on a cloned site. Avoid landing on these sites by bookmarking the websites for your favorite brands instead of using the search results from Google or Yahoo.
If you have examined the URL and you still cannot tell if you are using a legitimate site, you can use GoDaddy.com’s WHOIS tool. If you enter a web address, the WHOIS tool can tell you what company owns the site and where it was registered. For example, a site supposedly for an American Company that is registered somewhere outside of the United States could be a red flag.
Another online tool you can use to determine a site’s security is the Wayback Machine. This “machine” is a digital archive of the Internet. It can provide you with information about when a site was created and how many different versions the site has had over time. Avoid purchasing on sites that were created within the past few months and which have very few versions as they might pose a security risk.
Spelling/ Grammar Checker
When you visit a website, check to make sure that it has a professional design and logo and that it is free of pop-ups or error bars. All legitimate e-commerce websites have these features, but unfortunately some scam sites do as well. Check the content of the site for any abnormalities or errors. If there are unclear or no product descriptions or any spelling or grammar errors, you shouldn’t make any purchases from the page.
Contact Information Page
Before completing a purchase on a site, take a look at the contact page and the refund policy. It is always best if the company provides a way to get in touch with them if something is wrong with your purchase. In addition, if the company does not provide an email address or phone number on their website, be wary of purchasing.
If the company does provide a phone number, call it before purchasing on the site. If no one picks up during normal business hours, it could mean that the website did not provide a legitimate number for customer service.
You can get a second opinion on sites from your fellow consumers on resellerratings.com. The platform allows users to provide detailed reviews, details on shipping policies, ratings and feedback about customer service. If the site isn’t listed, it might mean that this site hasn’t been around for long and might not be as secure.
If you find a site that you believe is fake or running a scam, report it at StopFakes.gov or send and email to the domain name registrant ([email protected] for example). This can help other consumers like you avoid sites that pose security risks in the future.