Monday, April 07, 2008

How To Research An Unknown Online Retailer

From the Consumerist:

  • Do they have a toll free customer service number and published hours of operation?
  • Do they take credit cards? It is no guarantee of quality if they do, but it is one step up. I think you should generally avoid any place that only takes Western Union money transfers.
  • Do they have a security/hacker prevention or testing certificate?
  • Does the checkout process use an encrypted HTTPS page?
  • Are the company Privacy and About pages blank, or do they look like they are from a default template for an online shopping cart that was just set up the day before?
  • Search Google for the store name and words like "scam" and "customer service." It is not a good thing if all the entries are for people asking if a site is a scam in Yahoo Answers.
  • [www.google.com]
    [answers.yahoo.com]
    [wiki.answers.com]
  • Check the Whois to see what the website registration looks like. It is not a good sign if it was just registered last week. It should not look like someone is trying to hide the fact that they are running a business out of their parents basement.
  • [www.geektools.com]
  • Check the Traceroute to see what network it is running on. It should match the WhoIs info to some extent.
  • [www.opus1.com]
  • Check if the company has a yellow pages listing and street address. If you have a phone number, a company with a street address is a lot more reassuring. Check the address on Google Maps to see if it is a vacant lot or an address in a housing tract.
  • [www.411.com]
  • See if the site has a warning listed on McAfee SiteAdvisor.
  • [www.siteadvisor.com]
  • Check fraud and scam report sites. Some of them also list sites that have allegedly scammed other people.
  • [edsbandwagon.com]
    [www.fraudbureau.com]
    [www.ripoffreport.com]
    [www.scambusters.com]
    [www.scamclub.com]
    [www.cybercrime.gov]
    [www.fraud.org]
  • Beware of "Online Review" sites. Some are little more than a site for scammers to post fake positive reviews, and the owners to make money on banner ads. Here are some you can trust:
  • [www.epinions.com]
    [reviews.pricegrabber.com]
    [www.bizrate.com]
    [www.resellerratings.com]
  • BBB online. Lots of places do not have entries because they are small and treat their customers well enough to not get a complaint.
  • [search.bbb.org]

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