As people are actively price shopping online, there are also more retailers out there offering goods for sale. How can you know when you’re safe shopping on a website if you’ve never heard of it before?
Here are a few tips to practice safe shopping online and help avoid conundrums such as having your credit card information leaked or not receiving products you ordered:
- Once you enter the checkout process, look for a URL that starts with HTTPS. This signifies that the connection with the server is secure, and the information you submit will be kept from prying eyes during its transmission. This is important, as you will most likely be submitting your credit card number when shopping online, and someone else could potentially swipe it if the connection is not secure.
- Another visual cue that a site is using strong security technology such as SSL is an unbroken key or padlock, sometimes located in the bottom corner of the web page.
- Look for a solid About Us section on the website.
- Make sure they list several options for contacting them.
- Make sure there’s a clear return policy – and that you’re okay with the terms.
- Search for online reviews submitted by customers on third-party review sites. There was a case reported in the NY Times last year about an eyewear merchant who had hundreds of outrageous customer complaints online yet continued to thrive since customers weren’t checking the background of the company before purchasing. (To make matters worse, all the reviews actually boosted his site to get more visibility in Google, showing at the top of searches—so people assumed it must be a good retailer.)
- Yahoo also recommends: Look for seals from privacy enforcement organizations like TRUSTe or BBBOnLine, and be cautious if you’re asked to supply personal information not needed to make a purchase, such as your Social Security number or personal bank account information.
- The book Baby Bargains recommends to always go with a well-known, established website when buying major items like furniture (over $200). There’s really no way to recoup if an online retailer goes out of business or just disappears before your order is shipped.