Fifty years ago, science fiction writers predicted that in future we would be able to just press a button in order to buy something, pay for it, and have it delivered—all without getting out of our chair. Now it seems that we are already living in this future.
Up to a point, that is. The problem is, human nature never changes. Yes, people have developed new and amazing ways to do business. But they’ve also figured out new and fascinating ways of swindling you out of your hard-earned money.
We all know how to buy stuff online, but we don’t always know how to avoid getting scammed. Dealing with internet fraud after the fact is hard, expensive, and can even involve hiring a lawyer experienced like Joe Tacopina. But it is far easier to avoid fraud in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to do it.
1. Take reviews with a grain of salt
When you are going to buy stuff online, it’s a good idea to look at some reviews. But be ready to separate the wheat from the chaff. At least some reviews are going to be more or less blatant promotions. Look for reviews that have substantial evidence behind them: research, analysis, and statistics from different sources. For example, take this series of gold dealer reviews. The author comes to a certain conclusion, but his argumentation is absolutely transparent.
2. Check the e-commerce platform
Make sure the shop you are dealing with is using one of the well-respected e-commerce platforms. It doesn’t make you 100% secure from fraud, but the risk is much less than if you buy from an independent store using a self-made shop script.
3. Follow the crowd
Online shopping is one of the activities where getting off the beaten path isn’t usually a very good idea. If a lot of people go to a certain place to buy certain things, it usually means that it is the best place to get them. Of course, some things are unique or hard to find and can only be bought at specific stores. But the more general your needs are, the less you should consider dealing with small and obscure sites. So, if you are after books, go to Amazon. If you want games, visit Steam. If you want to find individual people selling all kinds of stuff, use eBay.
4. Compare prices before buying
The simplest way to do this is to use comparison shopping engines. Stick to the largest and best-known of them: they collect information from more shops and thus present more objective information. In addition to prices, you may find out more about stores and products in question, which will help you understand whether the price tag is justified.
5. Find ways to spend less
Coupons and promotions immediately come to mind. However, they are inconvenient if you have to keep track of them on your own. It is better to use a service like Yipit to find what you need at the moment.
6. Know when to shop offline
There are cases when, no matter what your preferences are, it is still wiser to shop offline. For example, there are groups of products that are not very well suited for being bought remotely, like clothing and perfumes—in other words, goods that are too difficult to judge without seeing them in person. Clothes may be the wrong size, the perfume may not smell exactly how remember you remember. It’s better to find that out before you actually pay for the product.
It’s easy and fun to buy stuff online, but you should always keep your bases covered. After all, you cannot be too careful.
Featured photo credit: Internet open via flickr.com