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8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit

8 Ways to Know If Online Stores Are Safe and Legit

This article is going to offer you eight pieces of terrible advice, and then follow each piece up with the correct advice. This is because a lot of what you read online is wrong (shocker, right?). Online articles and videos give you advice about keeping safe when buying online, but scammers can read too, and they know how to counter your checking methods. So, you have to counter their counters, which is exactly what this article does to help you know if online stores are safe.

1 - Use Reputation Checkers

They simply don't work most of the time because they judge websites based on very basic metrics. For example, there are still some that say a website is a scam if it doesn't use SSL, even though most scammers are using SSL.

You need to find a very good reputation checker. There is Web Paranoid, which is successful because it uses a wide range of security and testing measures and then ranks them dynamically based on information gathered over the long term. Then there are websites like ScamAdviser.com that are effective simply because they are popular and well-funded, so they can use user input to make their judgments. 

2 - Check the Address Bar and URL

Website cloning is old fashioned and quickly identified by Google, web spiders and Web Paranoid all check for this cheap trick. If a scammer uses a cloned website, something like Paypai, then they want you to know it is a scam.

Instead, check the URL prior to clicking. On a PC, you can hover your mouse pointer over a link, and in the bottom left corner it will show you where the link leads. You have to highlight and check the link with a Smartphone.

3 - Check the Contact Page

This is easier to fake these days. Checking the contact page and even making contact doesn't mean anything. 

An “Okay” alternative to this awful advice is to Google map their address to see if you can see their building, their logo, or their sign on the street. If they claim to be office number 33 in a building with 600 offices, then check out the building and see which companies are on its roster of registered occupants.

4 - Review the Company’s Social Media Presence

You can go to FameSwap right now, buy an old social media account, change the name and pretend it is yours.

If anything, a small company with poorly performing social media accounts is more believable than a small company with hundreds of thousands of followers.

5 - Look Up the Domain Age

This is so easy to hide, fake and buy, plus scammers recycle websites names all the time. The domain age doesn't tell you much at all. 

An easier way is to look at the age of their online reviews. If there are reviews spanning back nine years, then they probably didn't come into existence yesterday.

6  - Watch for Poor Grammar and Spelling

This is part of a dumb-dumb trap, and so rarely applies to good scammers. They put poor spelling and grammar into certain scams so that they only trap the sort of vulnerable people who “would” fall for such scams.

The alternative is to wait a month, or maybe half a year. If the company is still going and it has good reviews, then it is more trustworthy. Spelling and grammar doesn't really tell you much of anything these days, especially since Google doesn't care if you have good spelling and grammar too much.  This is one of the less speedy ways to know if online stores are safe and legit.

7 - Verify the Website Privacy Policy

The privacy policy, cookie policy, and all those other policies are meaningless. They could legally promise to mow your lawn for a year, it wouldn’t matter. These policies are unenforceable unless they run a registered brand in your country, which scammers are not.

Look for good and bad online reviews. If it has no reviews, then leave it for a few months. If it has all good reviews, then they are using bought reviews and reputation managers. If they have mostly good reviews, but a few not-so-good ones, then they are probably real.

8 - Validate the Site with Google Safe Browser Transparency Report

The tool is actually pretty useless. It flags websites that are old because they don't use SSL. They flag websites that have dynamic content that reads cookies without a cookie popup. In short, it has no idea if a website is safe or not.

You will be better off checking one of the many free WhoIs reports. It may show you nothing at all, but even a location of where the domain was registered is better than what the Google transparency report offers. The transparency report is not for checking on scammers, it is for developers to check to see if their website will raise any red flags. It is an SEO tool and nothing more.

So with this list of bad advice followed by good advice, you can better understand if online stores are safe and legit for your use.

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