3 Easy Steps to Safe Online Shopping. Are you protected?

Millions of dollars lost to Internet scams

Did you know that the FBI estimates 560 million dollars has been lost to Internet scams? The number is probably much higher since most online crimes are never reported. My family almost became one of those statistics yesterday, and it would have been my fault. Fortunately I did a few steps that saved our bacon from a fraudulent online retailer.

My parents recently let me know that their computer is still running Windows XP. Now that XP will no longer be supported they need to make a change. After finding a great tool to test their if their computer is compatible with Windows 7 (Windows Upgrade Advisor) I started looking for a copy of it to purchase for them. Unfortunately we discovered that a fully licensed copy of Windows 7 is impossible to find. After much searching I came across a website that claimed to sell a downloadable version of Windows 7, but there was one catch. I had never heard of the website that was selling it. It seemed to be the only non OEM version of Windows 7 available anywhere, so my first instinct was to purchase it immediately. “It is probably safe,” I thought to myself, then my better judgement kicked in. I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find anything out about this company, and what I found wasn’t good. This lead me to today’s blog article because I didn’t want others to make the same mistake I almost did.

How do I protect myself from fraud when shopping online?

  1. Check ScamAdviser.com before shopping on any website

    This is an amazing free tool. Scamadviser.com allows people to quickly check a website they are about to buy something from. Navigate to this website, type in the web address of the site you are considering making a purchase from, and in a few seconds the site presents you with a safety percentage as well as a report of the credibility of the site. This is the step that saved me. I looked up the site selling Windows 7 and a 10% safety rating popped up. When looking at the details of the report there were additional red flags. There were also reviews including details of a “F” BBB rating and a complaint of a downloaded product never being provided. If it wasn’t for ScamAdviser.com that could have been me.

  2. Check BBB.org before buying a product or service

    BBB.org is another free tool that should be part of your safety arsenal. The Better Business Bureaus website is easy to use and will provide you with a company rating as well as a list of customer complaints. When researching an online business you can search by name or web address. In my case when I looked up the company in question I was surprised to find that they had an A- rating. What it did show, however, was that they had 23 complaints in the last 12 months. I read through the complaints and found that most of them involved not delivering product.

  3. Check for HTTPS and a padlock before entering a credit card

    Have you ever noticed the padlock icon that sometimes shows up in the web address bar while you are checking out online? When making a secure purchase this padlock should always appear. Normal web page addresses begin with “http://” and when you are entering sensitive information like a credit card the web page address needs to change to “https://” which means it is secure. These two items mean your private information will be submitted securely. In order to accomplish this companies that provide e-commerce shopping on their website need to purchase and install an SSL certificate on their web hosting account. This SSL certificate encrypts the credit card data that is sent to them during the payment process. Some companies choose not to spend the money for an SSL certificate and transmit data without encryption. In doing so they put your credit card information at great risk. Before I enter sensitive information such as a credit card number I always look for the https and the padlock. If you do not see those two items and they are asking for your payment, run!

While there is always some risk to shopping online, these three tips should help you be better informed about who you do business with. If you know of other great online safety tips please share them in the comments. If you need help setting up secure e-commerce for your business we would love to help.  Happy shopping!

Jade Stanley
Oasis Interactive, Boise, ID
The Boise Website and Branding Specialists