Internet Shopping Security Check

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It’s difficult sometimes to resist a good deal online from sites claiming to sell wholesale wedding dresses, cheap designer sunglasses, travel deals.. you name it. If you want it, there are websites selling it – sometimes at too-good-to-be-true prices.  I LOVE online shopping. I actually successfully did most of my Christmas shopping online last year.  But, how do you know when an e-commerce site is a scam?

There are a few things you can do in order to protect your money online and to research e-commerce sites before you hand over your credit card number to a scammer.  I was actually victim to credit card fraud a few months ago, likely ripped off on a legitimate website that didn’t have proper security in place.

Here are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself and make smart Internet shopping decisions:

Judge a site by its design

It sounds kind of silly – but judging a site by how it looks can give you an indication of whether or not the site is legit pretty easily. Scammers are lazy and cheap. They aren’t going to hire a web designer to build a pretty site for them because they know it won’t be long until they get shut down. Their goal is not to sell to everyone that comes to the site.. just a few suckers that are willing to hand over their credit card numbers. Irresistible deals and time limits on a deal are big indicators that the scammer is wanting you to make an impulse purchase.

Also, look at things like the contact information — a Hotmail address is a warning sign again that you are dealing with someone trying to stay anonymous.

Payment Processing

I know a lot of people (including myself) have used the little security lock in the address bar as an indication of a secure site. This isn’t enough.. After having my card ripped off recently, I now ONLY purchase from sites that use a third-party payment processor such as PayPal. This ensures that the merchant doesn’t actually ever see your credit card number. Use your judgement on well-known larger sites that do have their own processing — but be cautious on smaller sites. Even if the web store is legitimate, often the site owner may not have invested much into creating a secure shopping cart and there’s a hacker lurking about waiting for transactions to process through this vulnerable site.

IP lookup

This is a little bit more technical, but someone with a web background can help you with this. If you’re on a Mac, using the Terminal application, type in: “dig” (replace with the website in question). You’ll get some juicy info here that tells you where the site is hosted. Why is this important? Well, sadly, most (not all) scam sites are in countries such as China or India. The US and Canada do a pretty good job of shutting down fraudsters that are hosting in North America — but have no control over hosts in foreign countries. You’ll see some IP addresses in the dig (IP addresses look something like this: There may be more than one — I usually play it safe and type each of them into an IP Address lookup site. If a Chinese country flag shows up.. steer clear.

Better Business Bureau

Lastly, a really great resource is the Better Business Bureau website. You can lookup the phone number or web address associated with the business. F is for fail ;)

I hope this helps. Happy shopping!

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