1. Buying through 3rd party services.
There are some well known shopping service providers on internet such as Clickbank, eBay, PayPal, Amazon etc. These sites provide an additional layer of buyer protection. Some of them ensure that the product is delivered within stipulated time, particularly so if it a digital product or download. These sites gather a lot of information about the product and the seller's reputation. They also have a market place where you can compare different products in the same category and usually have a system to rate and review products. This helps the buyer to make an informed decision while buying.
2. searching the internet for information
If you are buying a product or service from a website, then run a search in major search engines if a scam has been reported about that website or products. Simply add 'scam' or 'fraud' to your search term consisting of the product / service name or the website's URL. This would fetch you relevant results. If it is a fraud or scam, you will know it immediately.Then spend some more time on reading reviews about them.
3. Contact with pre-sale inquiries.
Normally, websites that are doing legitimate business would display contact information on their websites. This includes physical address, telephone numbers, two or three email ids and a live chat option. If a website doesn't have any of these options or have a very few, then it is probably a fly-by-night operator or a struggling business. It is always better to make some pre-sale inquiries through telephone, live chat or email. You can ascertain their average response time and service aptitude. Though several scam sites also respond with enthusiasm for pre-sale inquiries, you can smell it if there is inconsistency or excessive sales pitch in their response. You can demand them to clear all your doubts, before making a purchase.
4. Ask for a free sample.
This is by far the most effective way of detecting scams or 'just need your money' products. Several websites offer 30-day evaluation of their services / products. Some websites offer money-back guarantee. Money-back guarantees often results in a few problems and are not always a good measure of credibility, whereas free sample downloads or 30-day evaluation offers help you to try out their products without any risk. You can try 3 or 4 products for evaluation and compare them, before choosing the appropriate one for you.
5. the purchase process
Finding the right channel and preparing to buy
Once you have chosen your product to buy, you have to check that if that product is sold through any of the 3rd party merchant websites such as Clickbank, eBay, PayPal, Amazon etc. that have secure payment processing. If the product is sold through the seller's website, go through the various payment options available. If there is an option to pay through any of the 3rd party merchant sites listed above, it is safe to purchase through these sites. If there are no such options and the buyer is accepting credit cards only, then you should verify a few things.a. The URL shall display https:// instead of http:// while you are filling out various forms to place an order. b. You should find a logo of any of the SSL certificate providers such as Verisign, geotrust, rapid SSL, comodo etc, somewhere on the order pages.c. The site shouldn't ask for too much information than it is necessary.d. Some web browsers support 'phishing detection'. If you turn this option on, the browser alerts you if the selling website is known for 'phishing'.e. Read the seller's money-back policies and terms and conditions carefully.
If you haven't found anything wrong or objectionable, then you can proceed to purchase. But you need to take some more precautions. (If you are still using a dial-up, these precautions help you a lot)
a. Close all other programs and browser windows except the one where you are making transactions.b. Clear all the cookies and temporary files from 'internet options' in the control panel.c. Turn off automatic updates. Some software programs begin automatic updates without notice. If prompted, postpone such updates and turnoff such options till you complete your transaction.d. If your internet connection is experiencing problems do not initiate a transaction.e. All the above steps ensure that transaction gets completed without interruption and browser redirections work well.f. Always give an email address that works well for you, even if it is not your primary email. Some sellers may have a 'spammer' status and their confirmation email may get lost or filtered.g. Write down all the transaction numbers and codes that are displayed during and after the transaction. Save these pages to your disk or add confirmation pages to your favorites folder. h. After payment, though not necessary, send them a letter citing all those transaction numbers and codes and inquire about the status of your order.
It is a good practice if you leave a feedback at forums or blogs about your experience with the products you purchased. It helps others to make good buying decisions. It also helps the seller to improve his product or service. If you are scammed, never forget to report it.
These are a few simple things that can prevent a lot of headaches associated with buying online. You can avoid scams and phishing websites. You can make sure that you will get a good support for your purchased product.