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November 7th, 2013

How to carefully choose safe online shops

howto2_enIn my previous article, I advised you on how to protect yourself against attempts to steal your money while shopping online. I promised to analyze another problem – how to find shops you can trust and recognize those you can’t.

There are many e-shops and online markets on the internet. Some have a perfect reputation, some do not. From time to time there is a headline in the papers about “another fraudulent website” followed by speculation of how much money was actually stolen. How do you screen the good shops from the bad ones? Let us start with a few tips:

You can generally trust

  • Well-known and long established online shops
  • Shops your friends recommend to you, based on their experience
  • Shops with professional-looking websites and working customer support

Be careful when

  • A shop offers goods too cheap – for example a new iPhone for $20
  • Websites with limited functionality and errors
  • A shop hosted in some unusual country – check the domain name in the address bar

Never

  • Respond to offers sent via spam
  • Initiate shopping when you get the alarm from avast! Antivirus, or the web-browser for that e-shop

Reputation services

Beside those tips you can use some crowd-sourced reputation service where people visiting that shop can cast a vote about their experience. This can be very useful. Having a lot of positive feedback is a good sign you can trust the shop in question. Mixed, negative feedback signal potential troubles. When there is limited or even no feedback at all, it means the shop is brand new or not widely used. When you come across a shop like that, be very cautious – most of the fraudulent webs have a short lifespan.

There are two reputation services I can recommend you. The first is our avast! Online Security browser plugin which is a part of avast! installation. The second widely used and reliable is Web Of Trust.

Speaking about the reputation, I have one warning for you. The reputation some shops present about themselves can easily be a product of forgery. When you visit a fraudulent site, it will probably be overfilled by fake positive reviews to lure more victims. Trust the reputation and references from friends or independent sources.

How to pay

When using a smaller online shop, unlike the well-known big ones, it is generally a good idea to not give your credit card details directly, but to use some payment service such as PayPal. In this way you can pay for the goods or service without exposing your crucial information. Another option is a pay-on-delivery service. I would be personally very reluctant to trust my credit card to a shop I have seen for the first time in my life. If such a shop accepts only directly entered credit cards, I would rather go buy somewhere else.

Conclusion

There are many threats lying in wait for internet users.  Stay protected with avast! Antivirus and please, be cautious about where you conduct online transactions. One last thing – please, share these tips; the topics discussed in these two articles are still new for many people, and you certainly don’t want to see your friends or family members falling victim to cybercrooks.

Enjoy the upcoming shopping season!

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