The guest post is by Annie Wallace who blogs on viral marketing for moms as well as loves collecting DIY gadgets.
I know, this blog is rather about saving money than spending – but for the most part smart shopping is the most effective way to save! You can save a penny each day by not buying something and then lose three thousands in one minute once you are get scammed!
As with anything in life, online shopping has its advantages and disadvantages. You can shop from the comfort of your own home, search multiple stores all at once, compare prices and find discount vouchers for various products at the click of a button.
The main disadvantage is that if you’re not aware of the dangers, then you’re at risk of falling for a scam. There are plenty of scammers out there, so we’ve put together ten ways of avoiding them…
1. Avoid spam emails – Companies should only be emailing you with offers if you’ve subscribed to their newsletter, or have actively opted to receive them. If you get unsolicited mail then just delete it, as it could be a scammer posing as that company, just to get your bank details. If you do like the look of an offer, delete the email and visit the company’s website in your browser instead – that way you’ll find out if it’s for real.
2. Check for encryption – When it comes to entering your card details, address or anything sensitive about yourself, there’s one simple check you should make. The web address (URL) should begin with https://, as opposed to http://. The added ‘s’ means that it is secure, and encrypted by software that skews your details. This means it’s only available to your eyes, and the computer at the other end. If the site is not encrypted, then anyone can access the information.
4. Check for approval certificates – These come from third party organizations, such as BBBOnline and TRUSTe and will be shown as a logo, or at the bottom of the homepage. Click the logo to visit their site, or google the name to see if it is an authentic certificate of safety and approval.
5. Look up the company – you can do this on websites that track well known (and lesser known) scammers, and report them worldwide. If you know of any phishing scams, or the like, you can contribute to these sites and stop others being caught out too. There are forums, websites and email newsletters available, and we recommend Scam.com for the latest news.
6. Listen to your instincts – once you’ve been shopping online for a while you’ll get to know what a reputable company’s website looks like. If something seems amiss, even if you can’t put your finger on it, then get out of there and do some background research. A decent company will hire a content writer that doesn’t make any spelling or grammatical mistakes, and they won’t need to have hundreds of adverts hanging around either.
7. Check shopping portals and communities – Take CouponSherpa for example: you can search the entire site for the shop name, and instantly find genuine consumer votes and ratings. If there’s nothing to be found, then you should be wary. This is a big site dedicated to online shopping, and it’s also moderated, so the information you find there is genuine.
8. Make use of your antivirus software – most antivirus software packages will offer safety for online shopping, and this is important. Pop ups on less-reputable sites could infect your computer, and without your knowing could view your credit details when you pay for an item..
If you’re in the market for new software and you’re a keen online shopper, go for one that offers the following:
- Assessment of a site’s reliability
- Alerts about possible privacy breaches
- Protection against spam and phishing scams
- Misleading advertising and offers
9. Be smart with your deals – finding a great money-off bargain is exciting, but don’t get carried away and click lots of links. You should firstly only use coupons that are from a reliable source (like a long running blog, or a solid reputable directory or a social voting site we mentioned above). If you collect coupons for a while, you will soon identify those reliable source; for me these long have been the following two: FreeShipping.org (my favorite deal! free shipping!) and Promo Codes (US-only). The best kinds of coupons are simply coupon codes, which you copy into a box at the checkout.
10. Last but not least, Google it – if you still can’t work out if a website or a coupon is for real then just Google the name. Type keywords like ‘scam’ or ‘review’ after it to see if anything incriminating comes up. A reputable site should have honest reviews, indicating no problems with privacy.