10 Steps to Online Shopping Safety

Today’s guest post is by Ann Smarty who blogs on search and social media. If you are looking for guest bloggers or blogs that need contributors, join Ann’s forum called My Blog Guest.

Wojciech’s Notes: This is the first of many future guest posts that I will be introducing to Fiscal Fizzle. Guest posts offer some awesome benefits–they expose you to different voices and opinions, and cover topics I wouldn’t normally talk about. And they give me the opportunity to take the day off and work on improving other areas of the site!

I was very interested in Ann’s post, because of my personal experience with online shopping mishaps. Before I knew how to navigate the Web and spot phony deals, I was nearly conned out of over $2,000 for a new laptop. Even more recently–one year ago, a friend of mine tried to purchase a camera online, only to discover that the company he bought from mysteriously canceled his order and wouldn’t refund his money. There’s a real need for this kind of information for anyone who shops online. Enjoy:

Online shopping is so much better than shopping “in real life” (to me): no need to drive anywhere, plenty of price and feature comparison tools, easy access to user reviews – all these save both time and money. But there’s one thing that you shouldn’t forget: there’s also plenty of scam and cheating online. You want to protect yourself from that:

1. Make sure the site has full, well-outlined contact and business information: look for pages like “Contact Us”, “About Us”, “Privacy policy”, etc. Make sure the business has a (toll free) telephone number (a good thing to do is to try calling them to check if the info is valid).

2. Check third-party sites that rate and review online resellers and deals. There are quite a few; my personal preference is Buxr because, unlike many others, it is clutter-free and reliable (deals are shared by members, rated and reviewed by other members and also moderated by administrators):

Buxr

3. Check if the site has third-party seals of approval. Common seals that confirm that the site is safe include: BBBOnline , TRUSTe, etc. (A good thing to do is too try clicking those seals to make sure they really have a profile with that certification service).

4. Make sure the site uses encryption: the page that requires any personal info (like an email address, or especially credit card details) should have -s in the address, meaning that the URL should start with https://

SEcure shopping

5. Rely on your own common sense: evaluate the web site design and overall look. Stay away from businesses that have poor design (especially stuffed with ads) or grammar mistakes. Don’t trust businesses that seem to be too pushy when trying to sell you anything.

6. Use one of the anti virus and security monitoring tools I listed in this post that warns you against suspicious sites. Notice that many of those tools not only check for some tech problems (like viruses and Malware) but also aggregate user reviews and report on:

  • Misleading offers;
  • Spam attempts;
  • Vendor reliability;
  • Privacy issues; etc.

WOT addon

7. Check specialized forums that track and discuss scams. There are a few popular online forums where people meet to share bad experiences and educated opinions on online scams. Scam.com is one such place you should keep an eye on if you shop online frequently.

8. Always stay away from spam. If you have received an unsolicited email message from a business with a seemingly good offer: delete it and forget about it. Spammers have nothing of value to offer.

9. Use trusted / official sources of deals and coupons. There are a lot special offers shared online, but to stay away from scam, you should only use official sources. ListFreeSamples.com is one option to consider: this site’s administrators carefully select deals and freebies to publish. Besides, they use only official sources of deals (which means they can be trusted):

Listfreesamples

10. If you still have doubts, check Google. Make sure you look through top 50 listings for [seller’s name] search. Also, check results for [seller’s name reviews], [seller’s name scam], etc.

And how do you protect your privacy when shopping online? Please share your thoughts!

Photo by cytech

5 thoughts on “10 Steps to Online Shopping Safety

    1. Good idea! Most emails that come with coupons will also give you the coupon code, and won’t require you to click through to anything.

  1. I’m not a big online buyer, but I do have a short list of vendors I prefer to deal with on line. Its nice to shop on a website where there are no sales people to pressure you to buy, or to leave when it’s close to closing time.

    Thanks for the 3rd party rate and review advice, maybe I can expand my short list of vendors to a not so short list…
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last post: Social Media – How Do You Find Friends and Followers? =-.

    1. Amen on the hassling sales staff! It drives me nuts too–if I do go to a physical location, I already know exactly what I’m getting and how much it’s going to cost me.

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