Very few people can say that they’ve managed to completely avoid internet scams. With the wide availability of online shopping platforms, it’s becoming easier to become prey to false and exaggerated advertising, even when you’re careful. The popularity of dropshipping, as well as the increasing quality of counterfeit items, can make it difficult to discern between what’s good and bad, and the lines become even more blurred when it comes to software or services.


If you’ve recently made the wrong decision, or you just want to make sure your hard-earned money is going towards products and services that are worth the investment, you can include the following practices into your online shopping habits, for a more secure and satisfactory online buying experience.


Rule #1: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

Marketing experts (especially those who don’t care about their brand) will promise all sorts of benefits to customers who purchase their products. If something seems to be a miracle that’ll solve all your problems, it’s probably a scam. This is especially true with items such as supplements, which are only loosely regulated by the FDA, or not at all if they’re made abroad.


Before you click that BUY button, make sure you’ve taken a close look at the product. The price itself is a great indicator of what you’re getting into. Discounts are great, but prices that seem too low usually indicate there’s something suspicious going on.


Rule #2: Read the reviews, carefully

A good (but not 100% foolproof) indicator of whether you should be spending money on a certain product is the customer reviews left by previous buyers. Take your time and go through these carefully. More importantly, be aware of the fact that even “reliable” online shops such as Amazon can be filled with thousands upon thousands of fake reviews.


A simple hack you can try is to sort reviews according to rating, starting with lowest. Reading those should immediately tell you whether the service/product you’re looking at is a scam.


Rule #3: Do your research

Luckily for you, there are a lot of helpful resources around the internet when it comes to weeding out false and exaggerated advertising. Websites that write honest reviews about services and job opportunities, as well as reliable online magazines that showcase high-quality clothing, footwear, and equipment are a good place to start.


Furthermore, do a thorough check of the seller’s website. Look at their about section, contact information, shipping and payment options they offer. If anything looks out of place, or even done in a way that looks unprofessional, you’re looking at a scam.


Rule #4: Be critical of what you see and read

Research shows that humans are extremely gullible when it comes to believing the information we’ve read. On the internet, this can pose a problem. Literally anyone, with no real knowledge whatsoever, can write an article, making claims that are untrue. And it doesn’t just happen on the internet – data manipulation and false claims have been even detected in medical journals. For the average person, this can make life quite difficult.


When shopping online, it’s not a bad idea to take any claim made by a company with a grain of salt. Looking for a way to lose weight? Maybe check with a few trusted resources (like your doctor) whether a pill or cream can help you achieve your goals.


Rule #5: Always use a secure payment method

Last but not least, once you’ve made your decision on a product or service, and have decided to give it a go, make sure you’re using an online payment method that’s keeping you secure. Don’t give out any personal information that may expose you to identity theft, and consider using a payment method made specifically for online purchases. This can be a credit card you only use for online shopping or a PayPal account that works with most marketplaces and offers great security perks.


Bottom line

Online shopping can be a lifesaver, especially for those who can’t go out to brick and mortar stores to make their purchases. But, it also comes with a host of risks, especially for people whose digital literacy isn’t up to date on the latest developments.


If you want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from scams, as well as to avoid false and exaggerated advertising, it is best to follow the rules listed above, and be critical of anything you find online. Don’t be too lazy to do thorough research, even on items that cost very little money, as every transaction poses a risk, and fixing such messes always takes a lot of effort, energy, and can even be costly.

Author's Bio: 

Biologist by day, writer by night, and a huge geek. My fields of expertise could be summed up to health, psychology, lifestyle and work-related topics.