Shopping online – it’s something most of us do regularly. It’s fast, convenient, and best of all, often cheaper than shopping at physical stores. But with all the benefits comes an element of risk – the possibility that the item you just purchased isn’t genuine, or worse, simply won’t arrive. Then there’s always the risk of having your sensitive personal data stolen (such as credit card information).
Sometimes it doesn’t take much technical know-how to spot a scam – a little common sense can go a long way. Like the adage says, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Unbelievably large discounts on brand name products, promotions that guarantee large prizes, free gifts and delivery, testimonials that look too good to be real are all warning signs.
If the website you’re visiting seems like it might not be legitimate, there are a few more easy checks you can do to help decide whether to proceed with your purchase.
Can you clearly understand, what currency is used on the website? If not, like on our fake webshop, the online store could be unreliable.
If you see multiple payment options in the web store (e.g. as payment systems logos), but only one is available during checkout, it is a warning sign!
Check images on the website – are they good quality, consistent in style photographs? Or are they low resolution pictures with photostock watermarks on them? If the latter, the store is probably not good to trust it with your credit card details.
Spelling mistakes, typos, inconsistent fonts and bolding are indicating something is wrong with the webshop. Does it look like someone copied and pasted bits and pieces of content and product descriptions from all over the Internet? Does the content look like its main creator is Google.Translate? We wouldn’t buy there.
Bad formatting, inconsistency in content formatting, non-responsive website that doesn’t fit on a smaller screen are also warning signs.
Sometimes things that are not on the website matter a lot. Before making an online purchase, check:
- Is there a returns policy on the website? Is it in plain English and says clearly what to do to return your purchase?
- Is it clear where the business is located? Is it in New Zealand or overseas? Can you understand where does you parcel come from?
- Is there contact info, other than a contact form? Does a business have a professional email rather than free one at Gmail, Yahoo, etc.?
No returning policy, no location, no contact details, no professional email means no purchase in the webshop.
You can see the domain name by checking the address bar at the top of your browser. If the text in the address bar doesn’t seem to match the content of the website, the site may not be legitimate.
If it’s a domain name that ends in .nz, you can find out who the domain name holder is by doing a registration data query at the DNC website. Check who’s listed in the Registrant Name field. If the domain name ends in .com, you can use ICANN’s WHOIS service.
Have a closer look at the registration info: are there any discrepancies? For example, fake webshop’s owners might list their home address in Timbuktu, Australia. Or they can use obviously fake name, e.g. Admin Admin. Fake registration details are signalling that the webshop is not to be trusted.
If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of an online business, a quick web search will go a long way towards either alleviating or reaffirming your concerns. Search the name of the website or business with the terms “scam” or “review” after it. Chances are, if the site is a scam, others have already been burned and may have posted reviews online.
When purchasing items online, make sure the site is secure – you can check this by looking for the padlock symbol in the address bar of your browser. Make sure you only enter credit or debit card details on a site that has the padlock symbol, and “https://” in front of the web address.
A padlock is a good start, but it doesn’t mean that you’re completely safe. It simply means that data transmitted between your browser and the site is encrypted. Enterprising scammers can and do build secure websites to give them a greater appearance of credibility.