Online shopping experienced an enormous boom during the pandemic, and more stores are going online with their inventory to expand the customer base. With this online shift by stores, the scammers have also upped their game to advertise as a reputable online store and scamming unaware customers. But as a smart online shopper, how do you determine if the online shop is legit? While even the smartest online shoppers get taken advantage of sometimes, there are a few things you can do to try and lower your risk of being scammed.
Look at the URL
Before entering any of your personal information, such as your credit card number, take time to study the URL. If you used a search engine to get to the site, look in the address bar to confirm that you’ve landed on the webpage you wanted. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “HTTPS://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
Shop from a Trusted Platform
There are many ways store owners can sell items online (eBay, Etsy, and Shopify are just a few), and these platforms invest time and money to make sure the shops using their software are not scammers. A reputable online platform will care about its reputation as much as the online store and will do its best to keep criminals from using its platform and damaging the trust it’s built with its consumers.
Visit the Store’s Website Page
If you find an item you want on another platform, do some due diligence, and visit the store’s main website. Pay specific attention to the copyright year listed at the bottom of the site to make sure it’s current. If it is way out of date, do some more research. Having an outdated year could mean that it is just an oversite, so look on the website for a link to the Etsy, eBay, or Shopify page. Businesses on the up and up will promote their online store from a current, frequently updated store webpage. As a smart online shopper, if the store’s main website doesn’t advertise their other online stores, this should raise some serious red flags.
Don’t use an online store that requires more information than necessary to make the sale.
It is standard to provide a payment method, shipping address, telephone number, and email address, but if the merchant requests other information, walk away. You never want to give them your bank account information, social security information, or driver’s license number.
Don’t forget about shopping in-store, especially locally. Brick and mortar businesses, especially small independent ones, need your support.