The major players in online retailing are well known. Amazon, Overstock, Newegg and others sell to millions of people, and are regarded as trustworthy. After all, we all use them. But while these large online stores have a wide selection and low prices, they’re not always the best choice.
If you’re shopping for certain items, you may need to go elsewhere for the best selection and prices. That causes another problem, however. How can you trust smaller online businesses that you’ve never heard of?
Search is one of the best ways to arm yourself against potential scam websites. There are places set up for people to post if they feel they were ripped off, or given generally poor customer service. If you Google the name of the business, followed by the word “scam”, you’ll often find the complaints – if any – against it.
Please keep in mind that a single nasty report about a website may not be representative of a business, but when a illegitimate site appears, it rarely takes advantage of one person and then fades away forever. There will likely be many complaints from many sources. So keep things in perspective.
One issue with doing this, however, is time. If a site is new, there may not have been time for complaints to surface. That’s why you should use at least one other means of checking for a legitimate online business.
Use Retailer Search
Besides looking for scam reports, you can also use Google to check for general reviews through Google Shopping. A large number of retailers are found on this service, and users can rate their experiences. In addition, Google lists reviews from some major review sites.
Strangely, Google doesn’t seem to make any effort to organize these reviews, so you’ll usually have to find them by searching for the store’s name or by searching for an item the store sells, and then finding the merchant on the price comparison page.
If you don’t want to do that, or you can’t find the merchant, try BizRate.com. This site is another online shopping search website, and it does offer you the chance to browse and search retailers to find what others thought of them. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for you might also try Reseller Ratings, which unlike Google Shopping or BizRate, exists only to rate online retailers.
You can also try older organizations, like the BBB, or local and national consumer affairs websites. Sometimes they have useful data, but usually you can find information about a retailer far quicker from BizRate or ResellerRatings.
Install Web Of Trust
Web of Trust is one of the most useful extensions for any browser, and it is available for all the most popular options. It catalogs user experience data to develop a profile for a site, which is then shared with all WOT users, giving every user access to the experience of all users.
After you install the extension, you will be able to see the rating of a website in Google search and when directly visiting the site directly.The extension has a specific “Vendor Reliability” section, and also ratings for privacy. If anyone else in the extensive WOT network has had a problem, they’ll downrank the site, and that will show up in your browser.
Better still, you can open the scorecard for specific sites which, in turn, will give you specific details about how well the site ranks and provide you with any reviews that have been written about the site. All of this information helps you determine not just how reliable the business is, but also how long it’s been around. If it is a new site, it won’t have many WOT entries, which will show up in the extension and in the site’s scorecard.
If you use the tactics above, you should have no trouble verifying a legitimate online business. The only sites you may need to be wary of are those that are new, since few people will have used them. If a site is new, ask yourself what you’re really saving by using it. $5? $20? $100? And is that saving worth more than the risk?