A lot of different brands today are going digital, in their advertisements, in planning and executing marketing strategies, and even in selling their products and services. With the power of social media and the extended availability of the internet, you can’t really blame them for doing so. This expansion to digital has also brought brands closer to their customers—not only in terms of customer engagement, but also in providing convenience.
Now, people can buy different products, services, and food online through brand websites, shops, and e-commerce websites. However, customers need to be wary of sham deals and of questionable websites. There are a lot of sites taking advantage of online shoppers; some steal information, some sell counterfeit products, and some sell below-quality services.
Many have fallen victim to these scams; sometimes the fault is on the website, sometimes, it is on the consumer. The beauty of buying online is that you control your internet activities, right at your own home. This is the reason why you should be wary of the transactions you make online, just like how you deal with actual shopping at malls.
To avoid losing money and information, consider these tips the next time you shop online:
Buy only from trusted websites
Let’s face it, there are websites that you trust and there are websites that you don’t trust. Avoiding scams and information or identity theft can be as simple as not accessing or not buying from the websites that you don’t trust. Usually, treacherous websites have disorganized layouts, questionable pop-ups, and use anonymous email scams.
No to email scams
Email scams usually lead you to fishy transactions. Some even send you links to vouchers that you won’t be able to use or would require you to pay a huge amount of money over an unreliable network. Such emails are made to attract inattentive customers, those who can easily fall into their trap.
Make sure the website is secure
You can also look for websites that work within a secure computer network. You’ll know this if the website you are accessing starts with HTTPS. This means that you are accessing the real website, and not just an impostor website. It also means that all communication between you and the website are encrypted, protecting you and your information from third party eavesdropping.
Read privacy policies
Another way to know if the website is trustworthy is to read their privacy policies. This way, you will have knowledge of what the owner of the website can do to whatever personal information you share with them, be it your credit card number, home address, and even your contact information. Remember that this isn’t always just an option that you tick to proceed with your signup or transaction. When things go wrong, this statement can be the bottom line that determines the winner of the case, so it’s important to read it firsthand.
Check payment processes
You should also check the payment processes the website uses. Know whether it’s more convenient for you to pay at a third party partner, to make a bank deposit, or to use your credit card. Take note also of payment deadlines to avoid getting your order canceled and your schedule mixed up. You should also check for possible loopholes that you think might get your money stolen.
Don’t disclose too much personal information
Remember also that you do not have to fill up all the information boxes asked of you. To avoid information theft, even on a secure website, it is safer to disclose only the necessary information (usually items marked with a red asterisk) during a transaction.
Take note of the company’s contact information
The small things matter, especially when an unlikely situation arises. When buying products or services online, you should take note of the website or the company’s landline and mobile numbers, email address, and office address. This can be helpful when you found something wrong in the item you purchased and when you want a refund or an exchange. Knowing the address of the company also allows you to think about convenience when purchasing something that needs to be picked up or something that they would have to ship to your place.
Inquire before purchasing
When buying online however, it is always best to call first before buying. This is most applicable to travel and other services. By inquiring first, you get information on what can happen once you make the purchase. For example, in buying travel services, calling the website or the third party agency beforehand gives you the details that you might have missed, especially regarding available dates and airline surcharges. For spa and beauty services meanwhile, calling first allows you to ask about requirements, availability, and clinic schedules.
Check customer satisfaction
Checking how satisfied (or not) its customers are is also a way to know of a website’s trustworthiness. You can do this by checking its Facebook page or by using certain keywords plus the brand in a search engine. Blogs and social media posts may be the realest form of commentary about a website that you will find. Be careful though, as many websites and brands now pay bloggers and individuals to say something positive about them online.
Keep transaction records
Whenever you make a purchase, be sure to keep any physical or digital proof that the transaction was made. This can be in the form of a receipt, an invoice, a transaction or security number, or a “Thank You” email from the website. These things can help you when using a voucher, picking up an item, or when availing of different services. They can also come handy when you want to report a scam, ask about product warranty, or when you experienced bad service.
Oftentimes, the inconveniences experienced when buying online can be easily avoided if the customer is a smart and vigilant shopper. Recognizing, avoiding, and reporting scams and suspicious websites are parts of your responsibilities as an online customer.