With a huge rise of e-commerce and m-commerce business in recent years, people are buying more things online than ever. In 2013 41% of global internet users bought something online, with United States being the country with the highest number of internet buyers. In 2013 e-commerce retail sales in US amounted to almost $840 billion, with projections showing that until 2018 this figure will reach $1,5 trillion.
With such a high number of online sales, many people became victims of online scams. Although online consumer security is constantly improving, it is important for consumers to follow certain security procedures in order to keep their sensitive data safe. Some estimates say that online shopping will soon become safer than over-the-phone and in-person purchases, because consumers won’t need to give their credit card details to anyone. Until then, this safety online shopping guide will definitely come handy.
Check Online Retailer’s Details
Customers should always be able to find retailer’s contact information that should include: phone number, address of company headquarters, e mail and even some personal information, like the name of the company founder. This is not necessary when dealing with popular retail stores such is Amazon for example, but it is obligatory with lesser-known retailers. Companies that do business in certain countries should provide their registration details, plus all the contact information we mentioned above.
Check Company’s Reputation
Online reputation is crucial for e-commerce businesses, which is why many companies that do business this way invest lots of money in their PR. This includes: paying influential bloggers to mention their company name, paying people to write positive product reviews on websites like Amazon or Yelp, sending presents to unsatisfied customers to turn them over, etc. Consumers should check company’s reputation to the very detail. This can be done on Google by typing company’s name together with different keywords such as: “scam”, “rip off”, etc. Consumers should also search for the company on review websites as well as ask questions on forums that deal with online security. More official way to check company’s reputation is by checking complaints through consumer affairs bureaus.
Check Purchasing Terms before Buying
Some of the most important terms that consumers need to check before deciding to purchase goods on an unknown e-commerce website are:
Will there be any additional costs for: packaging, delivery, etc?
When your credit card will be billed (before or after delivery)?
Will the purchased article be tracked during the delivery?
Are there any guarantees for defects?
Can you return the product if it doesn’t met your expectations?
Who pays shipping costs for returning the item?
Most e-commerce stores collect data from their customers, but only the reputable ones provide detailed privacy policies in which they explain every aspect of collecting your data and its later uses. You should know if company uses your private information beyond transaction. Most companies use e mails for forwarding information about their future sales and discounts, while some other pass your data to third-party merchants who often overcrowd your inbox with spam.
Always Use Secure Websites and Payment Options
When paying goods directly on the e-commerce website, consumers need to check website’s security beforehand. All credit card details should be processed while using secured connections such as Secure Socket Layer encryption. This layer encrypts data and breaks it into little pieces, so it can’t be read by malicious software or people that are trying to intercept it. To find out whether the website is using SSL, you can look for some of the following things in your browser:
Message might pop-up that states that you are entering the secure zone;
Address in the address bar will change from “http” to “https”;
There might be a closed padlock symbol in your browser;
Another symbol secure pages come with is an unbroken key;
Accept looking for websites that come with SSL encryption, you should also look for the ones that offer lots of paying options. This is one of the best indicators of a secure website. Other than regular credit card paying option, e-commerce websites should also have different paying tools such are PayPal or Skrill, and for bigger purchases, they should also provide some more advanced options, such as Escrow for example.
Online shopping comes with plenty of benefits. We don’t need to spend time and money wondering around shopping malls and waiting in lines in front of the cash register. Due to its practicality, we expect that e-commerce business will grow even further. Shopper’s security is also going to increase, but until then, use the advices written above, when buying from unknown online stores.