Monday, March 17, 2014

Having a Safe Online Shopping Experience

Online shopping can be quite fun but it can also be quite dangerous as the Internet is full of scam websites posing as legitimate websites.  Some of these fraudulent websites are so well done that it looks legit.

Here are some pointers on having a safe online shopping experience:

1. Stick with well known and trustworthy companies when giving them your credit card and personal information.  Such companies are Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a few others.

2. If there is a site that is not on the trusted list, do a google search for the name of site plus the words scam fraud reviews.  For example, google this: scam fraud reviews.  Look and see if there are any/many bad reviews.  Some good reviews could be fraud as well, so use best judgement and common sense.

3. Make sure you have anti-virus with Internet protection from malicious websites turned on.  This does *not* guarantee 100% protection from malicious websites nor from virus infection but it certainly increases your chances.  Firewall is turned on.

4. Be careful of malicious and suspicious websites.  Don't think you are invulnerable and click on any site you want.  There is such a thing as drive by downloads that some anti-virus will not detect.  Yes, just by visiting a bad website, you could be infected and compromised even with all anti-virus, anti-malware turned to the max.  Be careful of what websites you visit.  If you google illegal software and music downloads, then most of the sites that turn up are bad websites.  If you google buying illegal drugs, there's a 99.9% chance you will run into a scam site.

5. Use McAfee Secure Search which filters out malicious sites or sites that have been hacked from your search results.  This is a McAfee Site Advisor plugin for your browser.  Google Safe Browsing is a similar service.  Having used both McAfee Secure Search and Google Safe Browsing, they seem to block out only a portion of malicious sites.  So many scam websites were still shown in the search results.  Unfortunately, it does not screen out all bad websites so you must still exercise caution.

6. Verify the reliablility and trustworthiness of the website by entering the web site address into:
  1. McAfee Site Advisor.
Verify there are no bad ratings.

7. How long has the website been up?  If it's been up for less than 3 years and has no bad ratings, there could be a cause for concern.  Usually bad ratings take a few years to show up.  Most bad websites change their domain names every 6 months to avoid being blacklisted and having bad reviews written about them.  It's like how companies involved in fraud constantly change their names to avoid known detection. lol.

8. Look for a few good ratings on the website that sound legit.  This step requires some common sense. :)  Beware that there are a lot of fraud review sites set up by scam companies.  Make sure that the reviews you are reading are from a well known and respected community boards with a variety of opinions.  If some web site claims or reviews sound too good to be true, then it probably is.  Be careful in those situations.

9. When in doubt, don't buy.

10. Assuming nothing bad shows up so far, see if the site allows paying through a safe payment system such as Amazon Payments.  See if the website has that option.  If it does not, it may not be worth doing business with.  This way you are not sending your credit card information to them but you are sending PII (personal identifiable information) to them and that should be done with caution when sending such information to unknown random website on the Internet.  By the way, you are not likely to get your money back if you use Paypal and got scammed.

Best of luck to you.  While this is no guarantee you will have a safe and enjoyable online shopping experience, it certainly improves your chances by a dramatic factor.  If this sounds like too much work, then  just stick with point #1 and stay with well known trusted sites.

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