How to minimize risks when you buy anything online

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The Internet is a great resource that has totally revolutionized the way people shop.

This powerful medium offers many key advantages that enable consumers to enjoy great levels of convenience, save time, and easily compare prices between competitors.

It’s also a good way to find detailed product information, as well as amazing deals and discounts – all this while avoiding traffic jams, parking hassles, mall crowds, and pressure from overly aggressive salespeople.

However, when it comes to online shopping, not everything is rosy and problem-free.
Far from it.

There are so many things that can go terribly wrong when you decide to purchase a product or service on the Internet: shipping and delivery issues, disappointing quality, hidden costs, lack of adequate customer support, and, unfortunately, actual scams that are engineered to steal money from unsuspecting consumers.

We live in a highly digital world in which everybody understands the benefits of ecommerce, but how do you deal with the risks, and what can you actually do in order to minimize your exposure to them?

The following common-sense steps can help you shop more safely on the Internet:

  1. Avoid suspicions offers: When something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical, always look for a possible “catch,” read the fine print thoroughly, and think carefully before you click the “order now” button.
  2. SSL: Do not order from websites that don’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption. Look for “https” at the beginning of the target site’s URL, as well as the little padlock in the address bar to verify that the page is indeed secure.
  3. BBB accreditation: Check the rating of the seller on the Better Business Bureau’s official website and, whenever possible, try to do business with BBB-accredited companies.
  4. Phone number: No phone number listed on the vendor’s site? This is a bad sign and a huge red flag. Don’t hesitate to take your business elsewhere.
  5. Reputation: Before buying, do a little research on Google and look for credible reviews, recommendations, and testimonials in addition to warnings, lawsuits, and scam reports.
  6. Use Free Trials: Some companies offer the ability to test drive a certain service before committing to a paid subscription. Use this time period to evaluate the service and see if it meets your expectations and needs.
  7. Money-back guarantee: Can you return unwanted merchandise? Does the company offer a refund in case you’re not happy with the product or service? Have a backup plan in place, and try to use companies that guarantee your satisfaction.
  8. Payment method: Avoid unsafe payment methods like debit cards or wire transfers. Safer methods, like credit cards or PayPal, are more likely to give you better buyer protection in case you encounter a problem with a merchant.
  9. Security software: Make sure you have professional antivirus software installed on your computer. Good Internet security programs can help you make purchases more safely and avoiding dubious sites.

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