Protecting Yourself Online – An Internet Shoppers Guide
Online Shopping is becoming more and more popular with online sales increasing dramatically each year. The reason for this is that online shopping can be more convenient, cheaper and provide clients with products that are just not available in retail stores in their area.
The convenience factor has several aspects as you can make your purchase any time of the day or night, you do not have to leave the comfort of your own home and your goods are often delivered to you within a few days.
So in a society where time is precious online shopping can be very appealing.
But is online shopping safe?
As the demand for online shopping increases so does the number of New Online Stores that pop up every day. However as a consumer how can you be sure that the company you are purchasing from is reputable and not just another one of those Scam’s that we often hear about.
There are a few simple things that you can check to help make your shopping experience a pleasurable one and not a horror story. Below are a few points to consider that can help.
The Summary Points below will give you a few things to think about. However clicking each point will take you to a slightly more expanded explanation of each point.
Please note: I am writing this article from the viewpoint of an Australian Online Shopper and Online store Owner, so as not to get too in depth, however these points apply to most countries.
1. Does the website have a local or toll free phone number?
Can you actually call and talk to someone about a product or your order.
2. Is the business located in your home Country?
Dealing with a business located in the same Country makes contacting them, delivery of your order and returning/exchanging items much less complicated.
3. Is the Websites domain (its internet address) a domain belonging to your country?
Most Countries require the person registering a domain is a resident or a registered business in that country e.g. Only Australian residents and registered businesses can own a .com.au domain. This means you are more likely to be protected by the consumer laws in your Country.
4. Is the website SSL secured?
If you are required to enter personal information such as Name, Address, Credit Card details etc. then you should make sure that the web page is SSL secured (encrypted).
The image below shows how safari displays the padlock for a Secure website.
5. What payment methods does the website offer?
Certain payment methods provide protection for the buyer while others don’t (e.g. Western Union). The methods used can give you an indication if the company is located in the same Country.
6. What Delivery Methods are used?
Local Businesses use local means for delivery so if the only delivery method is an International courier then the company may be located overseas.
7. What about if I want to return the goods I purchased?
This is important because if the company does not accept returns (within a reasonable time frame) then you better hope that the item you purchased is exactly what was presented.
8. Take the time to read the FAQ, Store Policy and any other customer service page.
A lot of useful information can be found in these pages so a little reading can avoid disappointment later.
9. Organic V’s Paid Advertising – Where are they listed in the Search results?
When you use a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo the first three or four results are often paid advertising. Anyone can pay to advertise regardless of how reputable or not they may be.
The Image Below shoes an example of a Search Results Page and explains the listings.
10. How long has the website been established?
Unrepeatable businesses don’t always last that long as news of poor service or bad quality goods spreads quickly. So if the business has been established for many years then they must be doing something right.
Once again a quick search online can indicate how long a business has been established.
11. Does it seem that the website’s prices are amazingly good?
The old saying that “if it seems too good to be true then it probably is” always holds true.
12. If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat it probably is a rat.
Sometimes our instinct tells us that something is “Off”, and although you may not know exactly what it is or even if you are wrong, doing a little investigation using some of the points mentioned wont take that long.
13. Do a search for the website you are looking at in relation to Scams.
There are many websites on the Internet that keep a record of complaints and problems others have reported to them about less scrupulous websites. See the expanded tips page for links to some websites providing this service.
Read the expanded Article with more in depth information on each of the points above on Wigs Online’s other blog page
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have owned Wigs Online (www.wigsonline.com.au) for 7 years although the business has been established for more than 10 years.
Over the years I have seen many websites come and go and heard many complaints from people regarding poor experiences with other websites – especially in the past year.
So given my experience and knowledge in the online world I decided to write this article to help consumers protect themselves against unscrupulous people (I refuse to call them business people because the term implies some level of ethics).
The other reasons for writing this article are that we all rely on search engines to find the information or products we need online. However search engines struggle to deal with the volume of information and new websites popping up every minute. There is also no way that a search engine can tell if a website is reputable, fraudulent or somewhere in between when it first appears on the Internet. So in the short term the search engines rankings offer no real gauge as to the quality of that website.
A search engine will only start to lower the position a website appears in the search results as that website becomes lest popular (is not clicked on/visited as often). Therefore fraudulent Websites can take a little while to disappear. So providing online shoppers with the relevant information needed to protect themselves might just save someone some heartache and disappointment.