Using the internet for your shopping needs is highly convenient, saves you time and offers a wide range of products and services at affordable prices. However, not all online traders provide a good service ; others are  not only unreliable but fraudulent. It pays to ensure you enjoy a safe online shopping experience by following these tips : 

Identify the trader

  • Make sure you know who you are dealing with. The site should provide full contact details not just an e-mail address. It should also provide a physical address, company name and telephone number. It is advisable not to purchase from a trader that refuses to give these details. 

Is the site secure?

A secure site is identified by checking for two main characteristics:

  • Check whether the Address Bar of the page starts with “https://” rather than “http://”. “S” stands for secure. A legitimate and reliable site will have a secure purchase site.  This means that while entering personal details such as a name, address, e-mail and credit card details, no unauthorized person has access to your details, thus reducing the risk of theft from your bank account or of  your personal data.
  • Look for a small “padlock” icon at the bottom of your browser screen or by a message indicating that you are entering a secure site. Click on the lock to see the details of the site’s security. Also, ensure that your PC has updated and effective anti –virus and anti- spyware software 

Paying online

  • Choose those sites that offer the possibility of payment options such as PayPal and payment by credit card and not just by bank transfer. Bank transfers and other money transfers limit the opportunity to get your money back. On the other hand paying by credit card offers greater protection than other methods in terms of fraud and non-delivery. Many online retailers request the CVV code which is shown on the back of your card. Usually, the last 3 digits of the code will suffice. This is to prevent someone who has managed to obtain personal details such as your name, card number and expiry date from making purchases using your card. Never provide your credit card information by e-mail or on a website that is not a secure site.
  • Beware of websites that do not accept credit cards but insist on money transfers. This may be an indication of fraud.

Think before you act

  • Try to do some background research about the site – Have a look at reviews posted by other users; this can help you make an informed decision. It is wiser to avoid shopping from sites having generally poor ratings or negative feedback.
  • Check whether the web trader has chosen to be affiliated with a Trustmark scheme. A Trustmark is a sign that will be displayed on the trader’s website and shows that the trader has considered and is interested in ensuring your rights.

The ‘Small Print’

  • When shopping online always check for your cancellation rights. Shopping online generally gives you the right to cancel your purchase. However in many cases this right depends on the type of goods that you bought. In certain instances such as personalized goods, hotel reservations and airline tickets, the right to cancel does not apply. In addition, the seller may have described the procedure to be followed if you wish to return the product or may have also provided a longer cancellation period than what he is obliged to provide by law.
  • As a consumer you must be aware of the conditions of the contract. Therefore, make sure that you read the terms and conditions and that you fully understand their implications.

Finally: if an offer is too good to be true it probably isn’t!