How to Find Safe Online Stores – Store Reviews Online

How to Determine Whether an Online Merchant Can Be Trusted popular stores

How many times have you seen a good deal online but hesitated because you were not familiar with the company selling it? This is a common problem and can cause either lots of potential savings to be missed or headaches to occur.

It’s wise to be cautious when making purchases online. An acquaintance of mine recently ordered 1,000 USB sticks printed with his company logo from an online dealer whose prices beat everyone else on the web. Too good to be true? You betcha. After arduous calls and a tedious complain process with his credit card company, he recovered his money. He’s one of the lucky ones.

To determine whether or not a company deserves your business, follow this step-by-step method:

1. Examine their website. If it looks unprofessional, you should probably avoid buying from the company. Are there misspelled words? Click away, and fast!

2. Ask your friends, family or post on a social network asking if anyone you know has shopped from the store.

3. If the site does not have a clearly stated return policy, refund policy, warranty or guarantee, don’t buy from them.

4. If a site doesn’t support “SSL” or Secure Checkout, don’t buy from them. Otherwise you may be opening yourself up to even more detrimental credit fraud down the road.

5. Check store reviews online and get the website’s rating from several trusted review sites. The key is to look for a website that removes ‘shill’ reviews but has a large enough number of reviews for each online store. Beware that many reviews are written right after the user has checked out. These are invalid in our mind, because the consumer has received nothing at that point to base their opinion upon.

Top review sites and ‘background check’ methods include:

b. – replace with the domain name of the online store you are investigating
c. – Pricegrabber has reviews for online store listing products on their site.
d. - The BBB accredited businesses are more reliable online store.

6.  Look for clearly labeled contact information including a phone number and physical address.

7.  See if the online store has a newsletter or email sign-up form. A company that wants to stay in touch is less likely to be a short-term scam operation.

8.  Call or email the online store’s customer service to see if they answer/reply. But be aware that this is not a guarantee of trustworthiness and safety! If you have any suspicions at all by the reply or call, or doubt the person’s professionalism, find a different online store.

9.  Google the name of the store along with “complaints.” (i.e ‘StoreName’ complaints)

10.  Ensure that the site provides detailed information about the product, including specifications or measurements for apparel. Check other safe sites offering the same product to ensure that these are not simply ‘cut and pasted’ to the site in question.

11.  What types of payments does the store accept? Stores that accept credit cards are typically more reliable than ones that only accept PayPal. Stores that are ‘Verified by Visa’ are a step above other stores.

12.  Does the site accept third-party payment solutions such as Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, PayPal, Square, and Visa’s The more payment types they support, the more legitimate they may be. If they accept Paypal, are they Paypal Verified?

13.  Does the store have any social media presence? This would include a Facebook and/or Twitter page. Is there activity on these pages?

14.  The online store should have a visible privacy policy and security safeguards.

15.  Be on the lookout for hidden fees and shipping as you complete your order. Online stores should be transparent about all costs before checkout.

If the online store meets all of the above criteria and you are comfortable with making the purchase, do the following:

• Place your order with a credit card, not a debit card. This will typically limit your liability to $50.

• Print out any order confirmations and watch for shipping confirmations.

• Monitor your credit card statement to ensure it is charged the correct amount.

To ensure that you find reliable online store, check store reviews online and also go through our safe online shopping checklist above.

Have you ever fallen victim to an online scam site? What lessons did you learn from the process?

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