What You Should Know About Shopping
If 299,999 planes land safely that’s not news. It takes just one to crash and that becomes news around the world and flying is seen as unsafe. Over 100 countries are at peace but the few that are fighting wars make the news. Understandably, a newscaster is not likely to think it’s a lead story to say, “Well, everything went well today. People went to work, returned home, showered, ate and slept. They are expected to get up next morning and do the same thing.” Media has become entertainment. We need to give the people information to excite them or at least to pull at their heartstrings.
The same happens with the Internet. As I watched the news last night, I saw a story about some attempt to defraud clients of a bank online. So some quack decided to “try a thing.” He/she of course got international media attention. The $8 billion that was spent safely on the Internet over the Christmas holidays, however, didn’t get the same kind of attention. So there is a news bias and we need to be aware of it.
It’s important to be alert but there’s no need to panic. The Internet is probably one of the safest places to do business because there is usually very little, if any, human intervention. A credit card is charged, a secure server sends the money to a bank account and the seller in most cases never even sees the number. You can tempt a man but you can’t tempt a computer. It would just do what it is programmed to do. This, of course, means that computers can be programmed to do fraud. This is why it’s important to be on the look out and make sure you’re not the one out of 300,000.
Here are the basics to keep in mind when shopping online:
- Look for the “https:” which is also known as the Security Certificate (SSL).
- Search for reviews on the company. Do your homework.
- If there’s a phone number on the website, call to check if there are real people at the other end.
- Don’t buy from any merchant who tries to hide his/her identity.
- Keep a print record of your transaction.
- Report any fraudulent activity to the relevant authorities of the country from which you bought right away.
- Beware of businesses from countries with weak fraud laws. Again, research will pay off.The International Internet Authority has a list of countries whose businesses will not get ‘High Assurance SSL Certificates.’ Personally I find the list looks more political than anything else. So I wouldn’t use it as a guide to tell me where to buy from or not. What I would use the list for is to check the honesty of the merchants. If the website says it has a ‘High Assurance SSL’ then I would know for sure that it is being less than honest.
However, in today’s world with ‘skyboxes’ and Internet telephony, it is easy to fake an address and pretend to be from the U.S.A. for example. In fact the few people I know who have been “burnt” online were defrauded by apparent US-based merchants. Just so you’re aware, I’ll actually tell you about the one I remember: Brooke Distributors out of Miami. Again, just for your knowledge, here’s the list of countries from the IIA: Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Rwanda, Sudan, and Syria.
Hey, if in doubt about a company from whatever country, just don’t buy.
Some people have also opted to get a special low-limit credit card solely for Internet transactions. That’s smart too. What I know will be a big hit here is when we get an authorise-per-transaction system. So there’s another Internet Opportunity for you. Talk to your bank and suggest the creation of a credit card that can only be used on an authorise-per-transaction basis. The cardholder would be able to log into his/her account on the Internet and specify, for example, “I am going to buy from X website and I authorise X amount.” So if anything goes wrong, you don’t lose much, but remember the news bias. Out of the 1 million transactions that go well, you’ll only hear about the one that didn’t.
In this regard, as website owners, it is important that you see things from the other side of the fence as well. What has made you buy online in the past is very much the same that will make others buy from you. In another issue of Internet Opportunities, we’ll go further into details about online shopping for the benefit of merchants.