Ecommerce safety basics and pitfalls
As convenient as ecommerce can be, it also is confusing and there is a tremendous risk. Here are some ideas that you should keep in mind whenever you are buying something online.
- Try to use pre-paid debit cards.
That way, only so many dollars can be stolen, and your credit rating isn't at risk of being highjacked. Walmart has a pre-paid card, called "money card" that costs $3 for each time you deposit or load the card and $3 for each month.
- Watch the balance at the bank you use.
Your bank might help mitigate a problem, but sometimes only if you react soon enough. While the federal law requires a minimum of 30 days, many banks extend it.
- Stick with known stores or check independent consumer reviews.
When all the reviews of a store is 100% positive or 100% negative, then be suspicious. Chances are, either the store's competition is trying to trash them or they are writing the reviews themselves trying to pad the reputation on the web.
- Make sure there is comprehensive contact information on the website. Chances something is going to go bad sometime and you need to be able to get in contact with them. If they are hiding that information chances are they aren't going to be very helpful anyways.
- Notice whether the store has enrolled in industry oversight programs.
Trust Mark and 'Trust Seal' are two of the more common ones.
Remember two things. While these images can be faked, but it is a good starting point.
- Evaluate the store's professionalism and user-friendliness.
This will give you a good idea of what will happen if something out of the ordinary happens like you have to return goods or some fraudulent charges occur.
- Verify that the store has a fair and reasonable refund.
- Avoid a store with hidden price inflators or confusing up-sales techniques.
I have seen stores that claim their services are free or cheap, but every corner you are asked if you want buy another product in a devious way. You can get cheap goods from them, but watch your every move. Every time you click a button, look at every checkbox and read it outloud to help catch double negatives.
One red flag is if the site does not explicitly state that it will not share private information with others without consent. However, remember that their associates include anyone who advertises with them.
- Ensuring that the vendor address is encrypted.
Always watch either the padlock on your browsers status bar or that the URL address starts with "https://" instead of "http://"
- Use strong passwords.