Online shopping should be safe and easy. Unfortunately, there are some places that give the entire enterprise a bad name. If you’ve been hesitant to use your credit card on the internet to make purchases, here’s what you need to know.
If the price is too good to be true, it probably is! While China-based commerce sites like Wish aren’t technically scams, you probably shouldn’t buy that Go Pro for $25 or the silk dress for $10.
Those prices simply aren’t realistic. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the products end up being low quality knockoffs. After all, you get what you pay for.
You’ll often find ads for these sites on Facebook or other places you like to visit. As a rule of thumb, don’t click on shopping ads unless you are 100% sure you recognize the site. That brings us to our next tip…
This part is a little technical, but once you understand URLs and domain extensions, you can be a much savvier online shopper.
A URL is another name for a site’s web address. (It stands for “Uniform Resource Locator,” in case you were curious.) It is made up of a few different parts.
First, check to make sure that you see “https” at the beginning of the URL. That “S” means secure; if you don’t see it, you might be visiting an unsafe site.
Next, look at the site’s domain name. For example, in the URL https://amazon.com, “amazon” is the name of the website. If you accidentally went to https://amazone.com, then you’d be in the wrong place! Many scammers use similar domain names to popular sites in order to trick you.
Finally, we have the domain extension. This is the suffix that follows the domain name. Most retail sites are a “.com,” which stands for “commerce.” Only government sites can use “.gov,” and accredited educational institutions are the only ones who can be a “.edu” address.
However, you might be surprised to learn that, despite popular belief, anyone can register a “.org” address—not just non-profits. That’s important to know if you ever follow a link to donate to a charity. The “.org” doesn’t mean you can automatically trust the site.
Popular eCommerce sites like Amazon.com are generally pretty safe. While you might occasionally run into an individual merchant on Amazon who fails to do a good job, the site itself has lots of protections in place to keep your personal information safe and handle disputes.
If you’re ever unsure about a site, do a little research. Can you find contact details on the site, such as a customer service phone number or mailing address? If the company doesn’t have contact info, that’s a huge red flag.
You can also check out the company on the Better Business Bureau website or Angie’s List. However, the quickest way to get a sense of whether you can safely shop is to do an online search for “[business name] scam” or “[business name] complaints.”