All e-commerce unfortunately comes with at least some risk of fraud or scam. Here's what you need to know to stay safe:
- Give out your social security number or any other sensitive personal information
- Give out your credit card information over the phone or via social media.
- Shop at secure websites that have either a lock symbol or https:// in the URL bar: Sites that do not have this do not encrypt the data that you send to the site, and any information that you enter may be at risk.
- Research the website before placing your order: DYOR (do your own research) and check that the seller or company is who they say they are. Resources - US: FINCEN SEC database, Canada: NRS database Australia: ASIC database UK: FCA database
- Read the site's policies on privacy and security.
- Check customer reviews for red flags and recurring complaints: Trustpilot is one of the many resources available, but if you're using a simple Google search, then type in the name of the company or individual and add scam to the search string. For example, "Company ABC scam" or "Company ABC review". Recurring negative reviews or a lack of client reviews is one of the fastest ways to know who you're dealing with. A lack of customer reviews should also be noted as a suspicious sign.
- Accepting cookies from sites that aren't well known or that you're not familiar with.
- Purchasing with newer websites: You can use this tool to check the age of a particular domain - sites that were registered for less than 6 months should be avoided all together, and domains that are less than a year old require further research on your part.
- Engaging with suspicious deals: Especially if you were contacted "out of the blue" by a merchant or telemarketer - even if it means being rude.
- Sending payment to a merchant via a platform that does not act as an escrow service: This means staying away from deals that you see on social media or Craigslist.
- Saving your banking or card details online.
- Transacting with unregistered businesses.
Things to look out for
- Deals that seem too good to be true
- Partial payment to a third party (driver/shipping/taxes) with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency
- You're rushed to send the payment either immediately or within a short time frame, regardless of the reason.
- Spelling or grammar mistakes