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Recently, I was looking for a new camera. I was researching various models when I came across a few websites that listed them at unbelievable prices! Excited but skeptical, I dug down more and discovered these websites were shady, at best. That is, something gave me the impression they weren’t entirely trustworthy. I settled on a site with an established reputation — Amazon.com — and purchased the model I liked for what I thought was a fair price.
I’ve been buying online for a number of years. And, regardless of the current state of the economy, more and more people are buying online, too. According to one estimate, 60% of consumers shop online at least once quarterly.
As most of us are becoming more familiar, and comfortable, with purchasing from websites — as our numbers continue to grow — questionable or outright illegal selling practices are also on the rise. How do we know that the websites we’re buying from are legitimate?
Here are a few things you can check for before you make the decision to buy from any website.
1. Detailed Information
One of the most obvious signs of a website’s sincerity and competence is easy availability of information. Unless you have something to hide, there’s no reason to skimp on such things as detailed product descriptions, delivery information, pricing, and even company information — the company’s history, physical location, and a variety of ways (names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.) of contacting someone at the company.
A somewhat important, but often overlooked, detail is a website’s “whois” domain registration information, on registrar sites like Godaddy or Network Solutions. Most of the shady websites I encountered had their domain owner information masked under private registrations.
Always feel free to email or call the company to get an idea about their business practices or customer service standards. See if you get hold of a “real” person or if you’re just sent to voicemail.
2. Recognized Brand
Most big-name, well-known online retailers like “Amazon.com” or “Buy.com” are safe bets, as are websites recommended by people you know or the ones you have previously bought from (and didn’t have any complaints about). I say “most” because in rare instances, a third-party crook could be enticing you to visit a make-believe website simply to steal (or “phish”) your information.
Make sure that the address bar of your browser always begins with “http://subdomain.name-of-the-retailer.com”, where “subdomain” is “www”, “store”, or something similar. Avoid shopping from websites that have an IP (internet protocol) address — usually four sets of numbers — following the “http://” in the address bar (e.g., “http://123.456.789.012/”).
3. Encrypted Data – Secure Transaction
When you shop from a website, all information you enter (like your contact and credit card information) are transferred from your computer to their web server. You want this transfer to be encrypted and secure. That’s what the SSL (secured socket layer) certificates do, so that a third-party cannot easily “eavesdrop” on your transaction and steal your personal information.
There are two ways to ensure that a website has SSL certificate installed. First, look for “https://” in the address bar, especially when you’re in the area of the website where you’re asked for sensitive information, like the shopping cart checkout.
Second, look for a padlock icon either on the address bar or towards the bottom right of the webpage. Many sites also use logos of SSL providers. Feel free to click on those logos to verify proper encryption.
4. Clean Record – Assurance is the Key
Other things to look for are the company’s record. Check to see if the company is a member of the local Better Business Bureau. If it is, you can check for any complaints against the company and, if there were, how they handled those situations.
Also look for website reviews online. Keep in mind that sometimes these reviews can be skewed by a small number of dissatisfied customers, or jealous competitors, but look for the reviews themselves to see if they’re consistently good or bad. Consistently poor reviews indicate potential problems or a pattern of misbehavior within the company.
5. Customer Satisfaction Is Our Primary Goal
Here at Bizmanualz, we’re mindful of the concerns our customers have about online shopping. We are proud of, and deeply thankful for, the trust thousands of customers have bestowed upon us over the 15-plus years we’ve been in business. We adhere to strict website security standards and take your privacy very seriously. Shoppers recognize this and, as a result, customers from around the world visit our website, view our samples,and buy our products.
We’d love to hear from you about your online shopping experiences, both negative and positive. Also, if you have any questions or comments about our own online security standards, please feel free to call us at 314-863-5079, contact us online, or leave a comment.
Thank you, and happy holidays!