Avoid scams: how to tell if a website is safe to shop at

Around the globe, people are doing more of their shopping online than ever before. And while we’ve all enjoyed the level of convenience this offers, there are, unfortunately, still criminals and scammers out there who create fake or untrustworthy websites that try and trick shoppers. 

Even more commonly, there are entirely well-meaning ecommerce start-ups that are trying to run an honest business, but may not have the resources or know-how to ensure your private information and details are as secure as they should be. 

So how can you tell if a website is legit, or if they’re just out to steal your money? We’ve laid out some simple steps you can take, especially if you’re shopping on a new platform for the first time. 

Check for external reviews

Before you shop, do a little Googling and see what others are saying about the online store you intend to buy on. A safe online shop should have a decent number of reviews on a variety of platforms.  

Aside from giving you peace of mind that they’re legitimate, you might also find details on the level of customer service they provide, what their delivery times are like, and whether their products tend to be good value for money. 

Safe internet shopping starts with being as informed as possible, so rather do your homework than take a chance.   

Make sure they have an HTTPS certificate 

How can you tell if a website is secure? One quick and easy method is to get into the habit of checking the following:

  • The website URL should start with https:// (rather than just http). This means they have what’s called an SSL certificate. 
  • You should also see a padlock icon next to the URL in your browser. 

While these are not absolute guarantees a site is completely trustworthy, they’re a good starting point in how to know if a site is safe. Some browsers will also warn you if they suspect a site isn’t secure. 

How easy it is to contact them?

Any website which doesn’t have a contact page, or just one communication channel, should be a big red flag. 

Ideally, you want several different contact methods to be listed, (email, chat, telephone, physical address etc) and these details should be verifiable with a Google search. 

Check for a privacy policy 

Online stores can’t perform their service without capturing some of your data – such as your payment details, delivery address, credit card number etc. Exactly how they use and store this highly sensitive information should be clearly laid out on a dedicated privacy page / statement. 

Never trust an ecommerce platform that doesn’t have one, or which uses such complex legal jargon you’re not able to follow it.   

Be mindful of phishing / fraudulent / pharming sites 

Some phishing websites are so well designed and so closely imitate the website they’re copying it’s virtually impossible to tell them from the real thing. The simplest way to avoid this trick is never following a link in an email to the website (unless you’re absolutely sure it’s legitimate and was only sent to you after you initiated an interaction on the platform). 

Rather access the site through an online search, so you know the URL you’re landing on is the real deal. This is one of the single most important online shopping safety tips you can learn! If you must access a site through an email, double and triple-check the URL for any unusual characters or slight spelling variations.  

Do they accept credit cards?

An online shop which accepts most credit cards is generally a good indication that the website is safe to buy from. That’s because credit card companies vet the platforms they allow to use their service, and are able to refund your money if the goods you receive (or don’t receive) aren’t what you expected.  

Summary – how to know if a website is safe:

Get in the habit of checking the following: 

  • Check for external reviews on other platforms 
  • Make sure they have a valid SSL certificate (https:// URL)
  • Ensure they provide accurate contact information 
  • Check for a privacy policy 
  • Learn how to identify phishing websites, and never follow links through emails if you can avoid it 
  • Opt for online stores that accept most major credit cards 

Here at RSA Made, you’ll find we tick all these boxes! We take the security of our shopper’s data very seriously, and want to educate our customers about how they can stay safe online. 

Questions? Check out our FAQs, or get in touch and we’ll be happy to assist. 

Safe shopping!