As many of you know, the online world is full of opportunities and solutions to our everyday struggles. You can buy anything there. But how do you know if what you're buying is authentic? That's where research comes into play. While the internet can be used for a myriad of convenience, it can also serve as a platform from which online scammers can launch an assault on you or your personal information--and knowing how to protect yourself can go a long way in ensuring your security. So how do we do that? Let's take a look at a few simple tips that can help you identify an authentic offer, from a potentially dangerous scam:
Make sure you know who you are purchasing your products from. Online retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart, all have a massive online footprint. What this means is that you can easily verify their authenticity virtually anywhere. You've seen them sponsored in magazines, on your TV, on billboards and signs, and even your friends recommend them to you. This is because they are large, reputable companies with plenty of ways to verify they're real.
In the event that you have to purchase a product from a company you don't know, the best way to stay protected is to check genuine reviews from a trusted review database like BetterBusinessBureau.com or TrustPilot.com. This can help you gain insight into a company's authenticity before you hand that credit card over to them. Beware of company-sponsored reviews as well. Reviews that seem too good to be true often are. Most reviews will contain a specific example of how the company performed in their service (i.e. "They handled my order very well and I had no issues at all!"). Do not let reviews that have nothing to do with the product influence your decision to buy either. An example of this would be, "Casey was a very pretty customer service associate!". Reviews that do not speak of the product or service at all are useless.
This one is especially important, as a LOT of companies operate a world-wide service, and as such, it can be hard to verify you're buying from a genuine provider. An example of why this is important is because the U.S. has certain laws preventing false-advertising and scamming. You can even sue people who scam or false-advertise here in the United States. Other countries, however, may not follow these same laws, and take advantage of that to scam you. A good way to verify the location of the company you're ordering from is to use something like Google Maps. Type in the name of the company and see where Google takes you.
Would you eat rat poison? Most people would assume not. So why would you put it in your body inside a pill? That's right. One of the most counterfeited pharmaceutical medication made in the world is Viagra. And if you're foolish enough to buy medication from outside the U.S., you're risking things like boric acid, speed, floor wax, antibiotics, ink, brick dust, drywall, and a myriad of other cancer-causing industrial grade chemicals that can literally kill you. Having a good erection will be the least of your problems. "But it works!", you're right--it does work. Do you know what else gives you an erection? This spider. It also kills you, it seems both the Brazilian Wandering Spider and fake Viagra have that in common. That's what happens when you choose not to take something that's real and FDA-approved. How much is your health worth to you? Is your life worth a cheap erection?
I cannot stress this enough. A good way to check the responsiveness of a company is to call with a complaint BEFORE you place your order. See how the company handles your complaint. See if you can even get a hold of a real person and that you don't get stuck in a call transfer loop ("let me get you to the right person"). Do they have any guarantees? Do they have a refund or return policy? What if a product is defective? Most reputable companies will have a solution, or an update for you, within 24 hours.
Any website that is authentic will not throw pop-ups in your face over and over. Some websites may have a single pop-up offering a coupon or special time-sensitive promotion, but websites that constantly redirect and hijack your attention with popups and flashy advertising can be a sign of a website that is not authentic.
You can take measures to reduce your risk of being scammed, but you can't prevent everything. That's why it's important to know what fail-safes you have in the event you get scammed. The most useful tool you have is your bank. If you find you've been scammed, genuinely, you can call your bank and have them chargeback the card you used. This will force the company to return the funds it withdrew out of the account. This will damage the reputation of the company with the credit card processor. Which brings me to my next point, a company that does not do business with any major card carriers is a HUGE red flag. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, all have specific criteria that must be met in order to do honest business with them. A company that does not take those payment methods is often leading a scam that major card companies refuse to be a part of. Beware of "Money Order" only companies as these companies cannot have a chargeback filed against them if they manage to scam you, which means they keep your money.
When it comes to the internet, a little caution can prevent so many headaches down the road. The only person watching out for your safety online is you. Are you going to protect yourself? Or are you going to be someone's next, easy target?