You’ve heard the stories. The stories of online fraud and identity theft. From these horror stories, sometimes it can make the Internet seem like a scary, unsafe place.
But, that is not true! Not if you are taking the proper precautions that is. The Internet can be an extremely safe and secure place to shop. As long as you take the right precautions. As long as you are careful about which sites you are shopping on, and you take a minute to check for a few simple trust factors, you should be able to feel just as safeguarded shopping online as you would anywhere else.
Here are 7 Trust Factors to Look For on a website whenever you’re shopping online:
A Security Certificate, or SSL Certificate, is a tool that a website can use to ensure your safety when shopping through their site. It ensures that any information you enter into their site (while under the secure section) is completely safeguarded and protected.
When you are on most websites the URL will begin with “HTTP.” But when you are shopping with a safe site, you will see the url start with HTTPS instead of just HTTP. That is how you know you have moved to a secure part of their website. Usually this HTTPS will show up when you hit the Checkout button.
2) Padlock Icon
Another way to see if a site (or portion of a site) is secure, is to look for the padlock icon. This, same as with the HTTPS, will not show up on all pages of a website. It will show up when you enter into a secure portion of the site (like when you enter the checkout process). When you see this padlock icon show up in the address bar (sometimes it shows up as a key icon instead of a lock), you can know that any information you enter while you see this padlock icon will be safe.
One thing to note, this icon is not just an image. You can actually click or double-click on this icon. When you do so, it will show you the details of the site’s security. Some fraudulent sites will have a bar built in to their site that has a padlock icon in it (so that it looks like the padlock icon that shows up in your browser’s address bar). They do this to try to fool you into thinking that their site is secure. Make sure that you always click on the icon to check out the details of the site’s security verification.
3) Third Party Seals/Badges
Some third party companies offer services to companies where they will check out the safety and security of the site, and then provide them with an approval badge or seal if they pass their standards. Some common ones that you might have seen are the BBB (Better Business Bureau) Accredited Business Seal for the Web and the TRUSTe Certified Privacy seal. If you see one of these symbols, that can help ease your mind that you are safe while on this site. Just make sure that you check out the company that is providing the seal, and that you trust them.
Again, as with the padlock icon, some fraudulent sites will mimic the seals, or copy the seals and put them on their sites. So also make sure that you click on the seal to make sure that they link to the organization that created them.
4) See if They Offer PayPal or Google Checkout Options
Another thing to look for is to see if the site offers PayPal and/or Google Checkout options. These are third party checkout options where the buyer (you) can checkout through this external checkout service. The thing that is good about these is that you don’t enter your personal information directly into the seller’s website. You enter your information to PayPal or Google, and they process the sale for you.
Just because a site doesn’t offer one of these options, it definitely doesn’t mean that they are fraudulent. These services can be costly, so some merchants don’t wish to incur those extra costs. It is just a nice thing to see, because if they do provide you with this option that means that they are willing to let you check out somewhere other than their website. Which means that they are not insistent on you giving them your personal information and credit card number.
5) Toll-Free Number
Again, if they don’t have this option it by no means proves that they are fraudulent. But if they do provide this option, it can tell you that they are willing to pay money to provide extra service to their customers. You can even take a minute to call this toll-free number and see the type of service they provide you. If they have customer service representatives on hand ready to assist you, again this can show that they are willing to invest in helping you. Most fraudulent companies aren’t willing to pay these fees and employee costs. They just want to make a quick buck.
6) Have You Shopped With Them Before?
The value of past experience can’t be overstated. If you’ve purchased from a company before and had a good experience, then odds are you can probably trust them moving forward. Don’t underestimate the benefits of shopping with companies that you know and trust.
7) Ripoff Report
If you want a bit more assurance, you can always check out what others are saying about them. Companies like Ripoff Report, Epinions, etc are sites you can go to to see other customers’ reviews and comments on the company. The Better Business Bureau’s site is another good one to check out.
Nicole is a writer for StarReviews.com. She loves shopping online, and loves helping people find good deals online.