Although the internet is a powerful tool (in 2015, e-commerce accounted for roughly 314 billion dollars in sales!), it’s important to remember that there are some websites you should not trust, especially when shopping online. The last thing you want is for your phone number, home address, or credit card number stolen from a fraudulent website. For this reason, you need to be able to identify if the website is legitimate before purchasing anything on the internet. The good news, though, is that there are warning signs you can look out for to flag these sketchy websites! Keep reading to learn a few ways to tell if a site is secure and trustworthy when shopping online.
Buy From Sites That Have SSL Certificates
Check to see if a website is secure when shopping online. Sites that are trustworthy, or secure, have what’s called an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL-certified websites begin their URLs with “https”(the “s” stands for “secure”) instead of “http.” Secure websites also have a green padlock to the left of the URL. The difference between an HTTP website and an HTTPS website is how they transfer data. SSL certified sites (https) encrypt important data, such as credit card numbers, email addresses, and personal information so that outsiders cannot steal your information. This is why you should only trust online vendors that use an HTTPS URL when entering any valuable information.
The vast majority of websites that process payments have an SSL certificate. If you encounter a site that is not, you should not trust it.
The red arrows above point to the areas in the URL you should check for SSL certificates.
Research the Company
One way to validate if you can trust a website is by looking for proof the company exists. When browsing the website, look for information about the company, including their physical address, phone number, and fax number. It’s a good sign if you are able to find a lot of information about the company. Other ways you can tell if a site is secure is by checking their privacy statement and verified icons. Privacy statements typically disclose that the company will not share your information, while verified icons mean that a company meets certain standards, depending on the logo.
Look for privacy statements and verified icons when deciding if a site is legitimate.
Give the Company a Call
If you’re still unsure about whether or not you can trust the website, look for a phone number and give them a call. No phone number? Leave the site. If you get an automated voicemail or the number is no longer in service, this is also a good indication that the site should not be trusted. Finally, make sure to call during business hours, as many companies do not have a 24/7 call center. If you still do not get a response during the day, exercise caution and leave the website.
Use Familiar Sites
The safest way to shop online is to shop at places you know, or places that have been recommended to you by a friend. If you can’t decide whether or not to trust a site, play it safe and go with what you know!
Although the internet makes purchasing goods quick, simple, and convenient, it’s critical that you pay attention to where you shop. Look for signs that the site is secure (SSL certificate / “https”), company information, and valid phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses. Happy shopping!