Online shopping can be a lot of fun— hello, unlimited selection of cute clothes, accessories, fitness equipment, and more, all from the comfort of your own home! But have you ever wondered if an unfamiliar online store is truly safe to shop with? Use our ultimate checklist for safe online shopping to protect yourself while you browse.
☐ URL security indicators
☐ Privacy and Return policies
☐ Easy to contact
☐ Real followers and interactions
☐ Trustworthy payment options
☐ Watch out for malware
☐ Update your antivirus software
☐ Try Google Safe Browsing
☐ Avoid public WiFi
☐ Stay skeptical and report problems
Pay attention to the URL
One of the most important features to look for when identifying a safe, legit online store is the “s” in “https” in the site’s URL. Websites with this indicator are encrypted and secured with an SSL certificate. This protects sensitive information like payment and contact information.
Look for a padlock symbol to the left of the URL. It’s an authentication badge that verifies the brand works with a security partner to protect its customers. Check if the badge is legit by clicking on it. A dropdown menu should open and tell you whether the certificate is valid.
Some cybercriminals have been known to replicate this icon. However, major browsers have special security measures in place to send you a “Not Secure” warning if you come across an unsafe site. Keep your browser up to date to make sure this is enabled for safe online shopping!
Check privacy and return policies
Reputable brands are required to show a privacy statement on their website for legal reasons. Consider it a red flag if you don’t see one! Privacy policies inform customers how their sensitive payment information is collected, used, and protected by a brand.
Trustworthy brands, like Guru Club’s partner brands, will also have a clear return policy on their site. Returning purchases should be as easy as possible for customers! If a return policy is unclear, missing, or overly complicated, something might be wrong.
Look for contact info
Contacting customer service for assistance should be easy and happen in a timely manner. Look for an email address, physical address, phone number, and links to social media as indicators for safe online shopping.
Sometimes, untrustworthy brands will include a fake email address on their site. Shoot them a quick message just in case! Call their listed phone number as well to see if somebody picks up and make sure you’ve reached the right brand.
Don’t get fooled by followers
Even if a brand has an active social media account with a large following, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Many fake online stores buy followers to appear legitimate. If a brand has 80,000 Instagram followers but gets hardly any comments on posts, something might be off. Look for brands like Guru Club’s partner brands, who interact with their shoppers and even share photos and videos created directly by their gurus.
Pay with a credit card
It’s quicker and easier to get your money back in case of fraud if you use a credit card. Plus, many credit cards offer rewards on every purchase you make, so it’s a win-win for you. Depending on your card, you might even be able to set online shopping as your most-rewarded category. It may also be a red flag if an online store asks for sketchy payment methods or doesn’t even offer a credit card option.
Look for customer feedback
Reviews are a great indicator that a brand is not only legit, but has satisfied customers who loved their purchases enough to post about them on Google, Yelp, or social media. Better yet, if your friends and family have good things to say about a brand, it’s even more of a guarantee that it’s reliable and trustworthy for safe online shopping. Luckily, Guru Club brand partners always have tons of happy shoppers just like you who are posting about the brand.
Keep your device secure
It’s important to look for these signs of security from brands, but you can also take steps to keep your device secure. Here are some ideas:
- Watch out for malware! Even secure websites can get infected sometimes. Look out for irrelevant popups, random links, or suspicious ads.
- Update your antivirus software. We know it’s easy to procrastinate this, but a few minutes of your time could save you a headache later.
- Try Google Safe Browsing, a Chrome setting that can help you quickly check website links for any issues or historical complaints.
- Avoid public or free WiFi. Public connections are not secure, putting you at risk of exposing private information.
Above all, stay skeptical! Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, stick to local or domestic brands if possible, track your order status and financial statements closely, and save all your order confirmations and communications with the brand. Stay extra safe by shopping with Guru Club’s partner brands, which have been approved by shoppers like you.
If you do get scammed by a fake online store, protect your friends and potential future customers by filing a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.