Making Safe Online Purchases
Author: Sarah Nyberg
Finding Your Store
There are a number of ways you can go about finding a nice store to buy from online. First, depending on what you're trying to buy, try to think if anyone's mentioned any online stores for buying similar products. Especially if you've noticed people offline talking about it, it's probably really reliable. Big sites, like Amazon, have great reputations- and will probably lead to a safer purchase.
If the product you want resides in a "niche" and isn't exactly mainstream, you may not have heard any mentions of where you could go. If this is the situation you find yourself in, you do have some more options. If you're willing to spend the time, try to find a forum on the particular subject you're interested in. Read around, someone's sure to mention a nice place to get those products. Just because a store isn't as large as Amazon doesn't mean it won't be as well established for being reliable inside your particular "genre" of stores.
If you want to go a quicker route, try Google's search, or even their new price comparison tool Froogle.
Making Sure You've Picked a Safe Store
There are a number of things you should absolutely check for before spending money online. First, is there any contact info on the site? Make sure there's a phone number as well. You may even want to call it, if you're not sure about the store. Second, when you're filling out your order and you're about to submit your credit card information, make sure they're a "secure" page with encryption. Some browsers will notify when you're on a secure page, others will just have a "lock" icon towards the bottom of the browser window.
There are also things that aren't necessary, but certainly don't hurt to look at, too. Try installing the Google Toolbar. If your store has a high PageRank, it's probably a well established site. Anything above a PageRank of 5 is probably a "super" store. Also try entering the store's name into Google and see what people have said about them. If you're having trouble finding anything with a basic search, try adding "review" or "store review" to the query.
If you're still not quite sure about a store, try calling the phone number just to be safe. If you get through without a problem, the chances that they're a decent respectable business are quite high.
About the author
Sarah Nyberg runs a number of online websites, including Final Fantasy Shrine (http://www.ffshrine.org) and Virtual Mall (http://www.virtual-mall.org). This article may be freely reproduced if left in its entirety (including this closing note).
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