According to the famous showman P.T. Barnum, “there’s a sucker born every minute”. But today, seems like a new swindler runs wild on the web every second.
The myriad of shopping cons online comes in all sizes, shapes and schemes. There are hardcore identity thieves that will not only get a piece of your payment, but will zero out your bank account. Some websites are built for a single purpose: to commit fraud. Small time scammers, and this is very common, will post an item and will send you a different or defective one.
There is no solid legislation that can really sack online frauds. There are authorities that were successful in hunting down a few. But, the ginormous space of the internet can be a challenge.
Fraudsters are continuously weaving schemes to milk money from the unknowing public. The next bullets will hopefully educate that unknowing public and turn it into vigilant online shoppers.
Better Business Bureau is a non-governmental and non-profit body that pushes marketplace trust. It collects reviews and feedback from consumers and then ranks merchants accordingly.
They give accreditation to those that are deemed reliable in solving customer’s issues. They also give ratings: where A+ is an emblem of great customer service and credibility. Lowest rating is F and NR (no rating) is for those with insufficient information.
When you go to BBB website, you just choose “consumer” and then type the name of the merchant. You will be directed to list where you may or may not find your merchant of choice.
Tenure in the industry
Staying power is tantamount to credibility, especially for online merchants. Why do you keep on transacting with eBay or Amazon? Because they have been there ever since we can remember, aside from the fact that both are billion dollar companies and publicly listed.
SSL Protocol (Padlock Icon)
We can go on defining Secure Socket Layer or SSL in its technical form, and we’ll probably never going to grasp its idea. In plain English, it is an internet protocol responsible for taking your payment information and endorsing it to the merchant (or a third party vendor such as credit card, PayPal etc.) through a secured channel.
Imagine you are drinking soda using a straw. The soda is the payee that provides all necessary information for the payment to proceed. You are the merchant and the straw that steadily delivers the soda from the bottle to your mouth, is the SSL.
How do you make sure that SSL is working?
There are two signs:
- URL of the sites should start with https instead of http
- The small padlock icon should appear at the left portion of the address bar
No SSL would mean that transmission is vulnerable to any attack. Not only is the payment at risk, but your confidential data that can be used to steal your identity.
Third Party Seal of Approval
Seals such as VeriSign and TrustSg are badges of complying with specific code of conduct representing fair business practices.
Secure Shopping Sign
Similar to third party seal of approval, secure shopping signs tell you that this online merchant has the capacity to secure your personal information. TRUSTe, CyberTrust and Thawte are examples.
Mixed Organic Feedback and Reviews
You know for a fact that there are individuals being paid to write reviews that are likely to nominate the merchant to sainthood. These fabricated ones are what you should avoid.
How to spot these? Never settle for just one review website or the merchants website itself. Go over the internet to find fair and organic feedback.
No Hidden Cost
Transparency is an indication of honesty. The moment you see additional costs that were not initially listed in the product description, allow me to give a piece of advice – run for your money. If they don’t advocate transparency in price, chances are, they are hiding more pertinent information from consumers.
Especially for monthly subscriptions, you can easily halt payments when you use PayPal. Also, the online payment company is known to be cooperative with the law enforcers. Scammers would not want to deal with the possible hassles.
There are regulating bodies that you can report to whenever you get victimized by online merchants. And with all the tips that we gave you, you should already have everything that you need to determine the real ones from the swindlers.
Use these. Be inquisitive every single time.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Kumar Jhuremalani