Over the past decade, our dependence on e-commerce has grown greatly. We rely on the Internet for everything from ordering groceries to transferring huge amounts of money across the globe in real time. Online services have made many tasks convenient for us all.

On the downside, we expose our identity and confidential details if we fail to take precautions whenever we transact online. Be vigilant and arm yourself with the knowledge to protect yourself on the Internet. Here are a few tips to establish a website’s legitimacy.

  1.      Look at the URL.

The first and simplest step is to inspect the URL. This is the text that appears in the address bar when you go to a website. The actual domain name should be exactly the same as the brand or company you are looking for. For example, look at the URL “amaz0n.com”; it closely resembles the legitimate domain “amazon.com.” Cyber attackers use such simple techniques as changing a single character in the website’s domain name to fool careless individuals. Be on the lookout for this and only click on the correct domain name.

For example, if you are searching for a listing of legitimate Swifty.codes for international wire transfers, make sure the exact words “swifty.codes” are in the URL for your security.

  1.      Assess the “look and feel” of the website itself.

Another trick that cyber attackers use is to imitate the “look and feel” of their site’s legitimate counterpart. Check for red flags such as frequent and glaring grammar and spelling errors. At first glance, you might think the website is real. If there are too many errors on the website, however, do not transact on it.

  1.      Check the website’s security certificate.
  •    Look at the website’s URL. The address should begin with “https.” The letter “s” stands for secure. This means that the website you are currently on is guaranteed by an SSL certificate. SSL certificates ensure that the website has the proper safeguards in place to protect your details. A website must  pass several verification steps before they are issued an SSL certificate.
  •    Look for the padlock icon in your search engine’s address bar. Click on the padlock icon to view the certificate information of the website. There, you will see the following:

  The name of the website owner

  The certification authority (CA) who verified the identity of the website owner and issued the SSL certificate

  The encryption and connection mechanisms that the website uses

Safe Website.jpg

  1.      Search to see  if the website carries a trust seal, and verify that trust seal.

A safe website features a  badge of trust seal. Some examples of popular trust seal badges are BluePay, McAfee Secure, Norton Secured, and PayPal Verified. These badges certify that the website is partnered with a security company to protect your payments.

Don’t just settle for seeing the trust seal badge on the website. Click on the badge itself. It should lead you to the verification page of the company issuing the trust seal badge.

  1.      Make sure the website has a clear privacy statement.

Before releasing your personal details, ensure that the website has posted  its company’s privacy statement. This statement clearly indicates that they will protect all your information and that they will not share your details with any third party, unless you give your consent.

  1.      Verify that the company itself is real.

Most websites are backed by registered corporations with physical offices. Check that the website posts the following details:

  Company name

  Company address

  Company telephone number

Verify if the address is real, and give the indicated number a call. Following these basic steps should give you peace of mind that the website is not simply a random trap for clueless online users. Reputable companies usually share their important details on their website, for easy access and provision of assistance to their clients.  

  1.      Look for the website’s return policy.

For online shopping outlets, it is common practice and good customer service to offer a return policy with its guidelines outlined clearly. A return policy is one of the basic forms of protection you have as an online consumer. If you are buying a product without any clearly stated return policy, you are at a disadvantage. So be smart, and look for the website’s return policy.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the Internet is full of thieves and scammers who are always on the lookout for potential victims. Scammers aim to acquire your personal information, credit card details, and banking details. Worst of all, they are out to steal your online identity. Don’t fall victim to cyber attackers. Be a prudent online shopper and know what to check for on each website where you transact.