Online shopping has become an important part of our lives, offering convenience, ease and a wide range of options for consumers. However, the rise of e-commerce has also led to an increase in fraudulent activities. It is therefore important that shoppers remain vigilant and informed when making online purchases.
Unfortunately, fake online stores that look identical to real ones are common. These websites are designed to deceive unsuspecting customers and steal their personal information, financial details and money. Falling for such a scam can be devastating, resulting in significant loss of time, money and peace of mind.
To avoid such situations, it is essential to identify legitimate online stores. In this article, we will teach you the things to look out for to check if an online store is real or fake.
Tips to consider when shopping from an online store
Search for a website and social media handle
When you are looking for information about an online store, it’s important to do your due diligence and not just rely on the first ad or listing that you come across. One of the first things you can do is to search for a website for the store.
However, keep in mind that creating a website is relatively easy nowadays with tools like Shopify and WordPress. So, it’s essential to dig deeper and look for additional information to confirm that the company is legitimate.
When you find the website, a good place to start is by scrolling to the bottom of the front page of their website and looking for contact details in the footer. If the website looks too generic, it might be a template that anyone can use.
Check the “About us” Page
Therefore, it’s essential to look for an “About us” page, which could provide more information about the company’s history, mission, and values.
If the “About us” page provides original information and mentions any founders or employees, that’s a good sign that the company is legitimate. Additionally, most stores will have an email address listed on their website, but it’s also essential to look for more ways to contact the company, such as a physical address and a phone number.
Check the Website’s URL
When you are browsing an online store, it’s essential to be vigilant and scrutinize the website’s URL before proceeding with any transactions. A legitimate online store will typically have a clean and straightforward web address that is easy to remember and type.
However, you should be cautious of URLs that appear convoluted, misspelled, or include unusual characters, as these may indicate fraudulent websites that aim to deceive you and steal your personal and financial information.
To ensure that you are browsing a secure and reliable online store, pay attention to the URL’s prefix. A trusted online retailer will usually have a secure connection, which means that the URL starts with “https://” rather than just “http://”. The extra “s” stands for “secure,” and it indicates that the website has a valid SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate, which encrypts your data and protects it from prying eyes.
By taking the time to examine the website’s URL carefully, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to online fraud.
Look for Contact Information
Good online stores always make it easy for customers to get in touch with them. Look for stores that have clear and detailed contact information, including a physical address and a phone number that works.
Be on the lookout for websites that only offer a contact form and no other way to get in touch.
Read Customer Reviews
It’s always a good idea to check out what other people have to say about an online store before making a purchase. Customer reviews can give you a good idea about the store’s reputation.
Make sure to look for reviews on trustworthy websites or platforms that are not associated with the store. If you notice that most of the reviews are negative or don’t seem genuine, it might be a sign that you should be cautious before buying anything from that store.
Find the Company’s Physical Address
If you’re trying to find an address for a business, you can look it up on Google Maps. Sometimes, the address isn’t listed with the contact information, so you might need to check the return policies to see if there’s a mailing address.
Once you have the address, you can copy and paste it into Google Maps to see what the street looks like. This can be helpful if you’re unsure about the location.
Verify the Payment Methods
When you shop online, it’s important to use reputable stores that offer safe and diverse ways to pay. If a website only accepts unusual payment methods or asks you to pay using a wire transfer, be careful.
Legitimate online stores prioritize secure payment options to protect your money and personal information.
Analyze the Product Pricing
Everybody likes to save money, but sometimes prices that are too good to be true can be a red flag. Extremely low prices might mean that the products are fake or not up to standard.
To make sure you’re getting a good deal, it’s a good idea to compare prices with other trustworthy online stores and see if they’re in line with what you’d expect.
Read the return policies
When you’re making a purchase, it’s important to pay attention to the warranty that comes with it.
Also, make sure you know the store’s return policy in case the product doesn’t work properly. Be aware of products that charge you for return shipping or only give you a short time to return them.
It’s important to know that if you fall victim to an online shopping scam, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your money back even if you report it.
So, it’s best to take precautions and be careful when making online purchases to protect yourself from potential fraud. Remember to only provide necessary information and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.