8 tips for safe and secure online shopping for first time buyers



Currently there is new On-Line shops opening daily with millions of new clients doing On-Line shopping for the first time. It is absolutely Amazing siting in the Safety and Comfort of your own Home doing your shopping where you choose to do it when you choose to do it.


Billions of dollars are spent online daily, buying any products and/or services you can imagine. Worldwide daily online sales figures are increasing dramatically, as is online fraud and the initiatives criminals come up with to convince consumers to part with their money fraudulently.

Many customers, especially those over 35 and First time On-Line buyers, have great concern and are still largely resistant to shopping online. Consumers in this age group find it extremely uncomfortable to give their credit card details and personal information to purchase on websites.

The younger generation are naturals at online shopping because they were born in the technological era. They experience online fraud almost the same as we (the older generation) experienced normal robbery or theft.

This is just the modern version of it. Keeping up with the times…

By saying that fraud exists online, doesn’t mean we must run away from technology, but rather embrace it. Online shopping is the new kid on the block, but not for long, current figures show a daily increase in online revenue and customers. Very soon it will be the biggest kid on the block and possibly, in years to come, the norm and only kid on the block. The greatest benefit to online shopping is the ability to purchase products from anywhere in the world and get them delivered to your door, no matter where you are, all with a few clicks of a button.

For all the old timers and anybody else still not completely comfortable to take the plunge and experience the wonders of online shopping, here are a few simple and secure pointers that I (as an old timer myself) use as a guide for my online shopping, to make sure that my purchase is safe and secure, my product is what it must be and that my purchase is from a reputable merchant. Hope this help you too:

  1. The online shop:
    • Make sure the online shop has a secure connection. In order to do that, you will see a little closed lock in the status bar, followed by the website address or URL starting with the “https://“ abbreviation instead of “http://“. Make sure the “s” is followed after the “http” as the “s” confirms:
      • it has a certificate to verify it as a secure connection
      • that it is a legitimate website you are working on
      • and that your information is safe.
      • See the example: https://www.goodieshub.com/. Never buy from a site not showing the lock and “https://“
  • In many cases the shop will be hosted on a recognised secure platform. Shopify is one of the larger platforms. You will see the wording “Powered by Shopify” or any other platform name at the bottom of the website page. Many online shops will also have the secure link logo included at the bottom of the online shop page. i.e GoodiesHub.com is powered by Shopify. Go over the name with your cursor and see if the name link to the secure page. Bogus companies will do a copy and paste of these names and logos but will not be able to link to the secure sites.
  • Check the spelling and grammar. It is a known fact that most of the “bogus” sites are full of spelling and grammar mistakes.
  1. The Owners / Management
    • Take the time and read the “about us” page of the online shop. This page should give you information about the company and in many cases the business history of the principle people in the company along with their photos. These photos and information can be counter checked on their personal LinkedIn profiles and other social media networks. A lack of information on the “about us” page and no social network profiles are never a good sign.
  1. The Return policy
    • Any legitimate company with legitimate products will have a good return policy. I have seen return policies vary from 3 days to 120 days. A 30-day return policy is the norm, but I must stress that this depends on what products or services the company offers. There are some companies or product lines, i.e online programs, game downloads, some textile products, Food, etc. which do not carry a return policy or have a very short return period. That does not make it a bad company. It is purely the nature of the product they are selling which does not carry a return policy, or it requires a very short notice period for returns.
  1. Contact and Customer support
    • All companies running a legitimate business would want people to be able to contact them. The company should have accessible and acceptable contact details. You don’t want to have any trouble getting in touch with them if you have a problem or query. Look for the following:
      • A telephone contact number
      • A “Contact us” button on their online store. The shop owner will receive an email from you once you have completed this request form. They reply back to you via email.
      • An active email address.
      • Social media contacts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest).
      • A Facebook page to contact on private message. The Facebook page also indicates on the sidebar how quickly the company responds to messages.
      • A Postal Box address.
  • To put your mind at ease and before making your purchase, contact the company and see how fast and efficient they react to your request. It’s as simple as dropping them a mail asking if they deliver in your area or giving them a call to find out how long it will take before you have your product. This way you have a better idea who you are dealing with.
  • Be aware of a “Gmail” contact email instead of a proper company email address.
  1. Social media
    • Go have a look at the companies social media activity. It will give you a very good indication on how they operate their business and how they handle their complaints, if any. 
  • Facebook gives a very good indication on a companies operation. Look for the Following:
    • Daily posts give a very good indication on the companies activities, company image, products and their interaction with their clients.
    • Most Facebook pages have a “review” feature on the left side bar of their Facebook page. People can rate the company between 1 and 5 stars. 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. Read the reviews and see what people say about the company.
    • Is the Company accessible and contactable from their Company Facebook Page?
    • As mentioned above, see how responsive they are to their messages. This is allocated on the left side above the website address. Contact them and see for yourself.
    • You can also see the company activity on other social media platforms on their Company profiles like:
  1. Your private information
    • Any good online seller will explain how your personal information will be handled and protected on their security and privacy or FAQ section of their website.
    • Never give anybody your social security or ID number when shopping online, no matter how enticing the deal.
    • Some sites require you to create an account with a password. Make sure you pick a strong unique password that you never give out to anybody.
    • When a company use PayPal or any other 3rd party merchant for secure payment. All your Credit, Debit or bank details are with the Merchant payment company (PayPal) and not with the company selling you the goods.
  1. Payment
    • When selecting a payment method on checkout, you should give some thought to security. Most online sellers accept a variety of payment methods for their purchases, such as: credit cards, debit cards, bit coins, gift cards and EFT’
  • Some Online businesses accept payment through third-party companies like PayPal, 2Checkout, Google Wallet, Amazon and PayFast Payments. Because the company owner had to register with these organisations as a vendor, these organisations take the seller through a very strict registration process, which includes the submission of proof of the companies documents and the legitimate registrations thereof, making it one of the safer payment methods for your purchases, giving you an added security value.
  • If you are taken to a third party Merchant site to complete payment, look for the lock and the “https://“ in the status bar as it is in the case of PayPal.
  • Never do any payment if it is not a secure site.
  • Never give anybody your credit card details via email or telephonically.
  1. Your bank Statements
    • Your statements for your credit cards, debit cards, PayPal and bank accounts are your best source of information regarding your online purchase history.
    • Don’t wait until you get your statement or until you hear from the bank. Log into your online banking regularly and by checking your statement on a regular basis you can detect any fraudulent or unauthorised transfers immediately. Report any such problem to the applicable institution immediately for them to take the necessary action.

I know there are a lot of different points discussing safety and security of online shopping. The points I have discussed are ones I find the most helpful and reliable to guide me into making the best decision. I have not discussed hardware and software security, which is a different subject for another day, because it will not influence on your decision whether to buy from a specific merchant or not.

Against popular belief, online shopping should not be impersonal and faceless. There is an actual person on the other side of that website, which in most cases would be too glad to hear from you, whether it is good or bad (I know I would like to hear from my customers). Talk to them, satisfy your doubts and discuss any questions or concerns you may have before your purchase.

What I have discussed here is by no means a fail proof method, but will definitely guide you into making an educated decision.

The most important is to always trust your gut. If you go through these points I have discussed and you feel something is wrong, there most probably is.

Like the saying goes, “If it looks too good to be true, it most probably is.”

Happy shopping.

Ben du Preez

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