The online commerce of goods is a growing market: by 2021, more than 2.1 billion people are expected to shop online. The goods sold represent a colossal market of more than 3 trillion euros annually. In India, the phenomenon is reaching unprecedented figures: in 2019, more than 100 billion euros were spent on online purchases, with more than 38 million e-shoppers and more than 1.5 billion online transactions.
Line last year. In a thriving and growing market, bad guys see this opportunity, people who aim to take your money fraudulently. With this guide, we want to inform and advise our Internet users, those who buy for the first time on a new site, perhaps attracted by an offer that is too attractive. None of the advice given here to check if an ecommerce site is reliable does not require any particular technical knowledge; all you need is a browser and an internet connection.
Contact Details And Contacts
The first signals to check if a website is reliable are visible from the home page, the main page. This first verification is essential if you arrive at a product page through an advertisement, a social network or any other third-party site. On the site in question, click at the top to return to the home page and scroll to the bottom of the site.
At the bottom, all the data should be necessary to contact one or more persons responsible for the website, request information, report malfunctions, etc. You will understand that if someone intends to embezzle your money, they will not leave contact details or fake ones. If you can’t find a link to a contact form, it’s a first strong warning signal to consider checking the reliability of a site or an ecommerce.
For any entity operating in Europe, there is an obligation to respect the constraints of the regulation, under penalty of very heavy fines. You can do so online if you wish to report irregularities concerning protecting personal data on a site or e-commerce. Remember that you have the right to know how your data is used and to request the total deletion of any data concerning you on the sites, applications and services, on simple request.
Check The VAT Number
Companies resident in India and registered in the Trade and Companies Register (RCS), particularly e-commerce sites ( excluding auto-entrepreneurs ), must have a VAT number registered in the Tax Register. Companies that physically operate in India or throughout the European Union or have their registered office in India are registered in VIES ( VAT Information Exchange System ).
The latter makes it easy to check the integrity of the data declared on a site by cross-referencing them with those resulting from the search for a VAT number. E-commerce must, if it operates in India or Europe, have a visible VAT number on its site, preferably on the home page. There are two possibilities if there is no visible VAT number on a website. The e-commerce site works from a country where it is not necessary to reveal its VAT number or which tries to hide it because it does not have one.
If you’ve come this far, it means that the website seems pretty trustworthy at first, but there might be something you still suspect. It can be the site layout, spelling mistakes, advertising banners, or weird links to disreputable services… Let’s play a little detective to find out who is behind a site on the web.
As the new digital Sherlock Holmes, we offer you to test the use of Whois. The Whois system was created for website administrators, who could use it to look up contact information for other administrators from an IP address or domain name. It is a telephone directory, where by entering the name of a site, the database reveals important information about the site itself.
By doing a simple search on a domain name known as Wikipedia, we learn that: the holder is the Wikimedia Foundation Inc, which resides in the state of California, United States, and we also obtained contact information, for example, to complain about abuse or for any other reason. This is only sometimes the case if all the information is transparent and aligned with what we expected. Certain false declarations during the domain name’s registration by its holder are possible.
Google Safe Browsing
Sometimes certain websites can be controlled by malicious people or cyber criminals. Suppose you suspect that the site or e-commerce may contain malicious software. In that case, Google has developed a quick verification tool that provides total transparency for users of its services (Chrome, Gmail, Search, Android, etc.): Google Safe Browsing.
You can enter the site name you intend to scan in your browser’s search bar. For example, we are often asked if sites such as GearBest or Banggood, Chinese product import sites operating outside the European Union, are safe and reliable sites. Enter the name in the Google search engine, and launch an analysis.
Check Site History With Webarchive
E-commerce or websites claim years of experience, which seems hard to believe. Unfortunately for liars, there is a tool on the Internet that keeps track of everything, or almost, and even the presence and visual appearance of Internet sites. This is a Web archive. This tool allows you to search on a date T, a snapshot of the site or e-commerce, to see what it looked like and contained.
To do this, enter the URL of the site to be tested in the Webarchive, and the tool will give you a Timeline with different “photos” taken on specific dates since the creation of the site. You get the site’s real-time history, visuals, data and images since its inception. A tool that allows you to travel through time without leaving your sofa!
Let’s say a site claims to have been on the Internet for 10 years, and there should be screenshots from at least a few years ago. Webarchive is a very useful tool to unmask fraudsters. It’s also useful for browsing our favorite sites and discovering how they have evolved over time.
One of the tools that still turns out to be one of the most effective today is knowing if a store or a site is reliable, namely, customer reviews! Some specialized sites on the Internet collect the opinions and opinions of customers ( such as Verified Reviews, Trustpilot or eKomi ) who have purchased on e-commerce or used a service. They can be very helpful in getting a general idea of what to expect.
One of the main reasons to worry when buying a product on the Internet is the expectation of delivery following the order. It can be nerve-wracking not to receive the desired product within a week. Some products can take weeks, especially if you buy screws from Chinese import e-commerce, for example.
However, if on the sites that evaluate a store’s reliability, you read among the comments that other users have had the same experience as us, you can be reassured. So you may not be an isolated case. On balance, in the choice of the reliability or not of an online store, negative opinions weigh more heavily than positive opinions. This is because our brain, in the process of protection, gives it more weight than a neutral or positive comment.
If out of 5 comments, 3 are positive, one neutral and one negative, you can finally decide not to trust this brand. That’s why we can find e-merchants or websites that buy positive reviews or flood competitors with negative reviews. Although less and less present, this type of practice exists mainly for niche sites where there is little but fierce competition. So consider the opinions and comments of verified users and subscribers to the sites for a long time. Beware of newly created accounts without a profile picture that discredits a store without even giving any justification.
Means Of Payment
An online store should clearly indicate which payment methods are accepted from the homepage. Avoid e-commerce that only allows payment via payment systems offering virtually no protection to buyers. A bank transfer is a solution that can be considered, but it is essential to ensure the store’s reliability.
It is instead recommended to pay by credit card or PayPal, or similar solutions on certified platforms that offer full protections for buyers, such as eBay or Aliexpress. In case of problems, you will always have someone to turn to, for example, in the case of a fraudulent transaction.
Some online stores may deliberately choose not to offer PayPal, even though it is a reliable and professional third-party service that supports other secure payment methods. Be aware that PayPal often penalizes the victim of a scam, even going so far as to freeze the funds in the shop’s account for weeks until the dispute is resolved. For small e-commerce, this solution could be dangerous for its cash flow.
Websites and online stores that ask you to enter personal information, or to log in with your credentials, must offer a secure SSL encrypted connection. The easiest way to ensure this additional security level is to consult our browser’s address bar. Sites protected by an SSL certificate have a URL ( or address ) starting with https:// instead of http://, where s stands for secure. Next to the URL, you will also find a small padlock when the connection is secure.
Use Common Sense
With a few quick and easy checks, you will save yourself a lot of headaches and hassle if you learn to tell which sites are trustworthy from those which are not. Do not hesitate to consult those around you by questioning people with more experience than you in Internet purchases. In any case, if you have the slightest doubt about a site’s reliability, cut it short and close the page!
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