The Internet can be a wonderful place for buying and selling. Goods and services that once was far and can only be reached within one’s immediate environment can now be accessed thousands of miles away with the click of a mouse. Sadly, for every reputable website there are several others that are full of information that’s inaccurate, unreliable or worse. Many are purposely set up with the aim of defrauding unsuspecting buyers of their money, while others who went bankrupt eventually become moribund and many online buyers end up losing great deal of money, making purchases for services that are no longer offered.
Before you make that spend, here are nine ways (put together from online resources) to tell if a website is reliable.
1. Checking for Security Certifications
If you are visiting the website with a secure connection, you will be able to identify the website through the site’s certificate. A secure or encrypted website address will begin with HTTPS rather than HTTP, and you will see a lock icon in the Address bar. Secure connections use certificates to identify the website and to encrypt your connection so that it will be more difficult for a hacker to view. You can also click the lock icon in the Address bar to see more information about the website. Extended Validation (EV) certificates will turn the Address bar green, and will contain a confirmed name and address for the website owner.
2. Check the Links
Reputable websites often link to each other. See which sites the website you’re on links to. Then go to Google and enter this in the search field: link: http://www.thewebsite.com. The resulting search will contain websites that link to the site. Does it include reputable or well- known sites? If lots of sites are linking to the site, and of those sites seem reputable, then that’s a good sign.
3. Conduct a Search
Take into account that commercial sites are designed to sell a product or service, and therefore the site is designed primarily to get you to buy something. This doesn’t necessarily mean the site isn’t credible, but note that information may be presented with a promotional slant. Therefore, you may want to conduct several checks on the website by visiting review sites, forums and discussion boards relevant to the industry. You may find one or two information about the website (their product or services, support, return policy etc) that may bolster your confidence in the website or steer you clear off the site.
4. Timeliness of Information
This is regarding to the age of the content on the website. If articles are not updated and blogs kept alive by injecting new information, these could be signs that the website is no longer receiving the attention by its owners and has lost (or losing) credibility. For example, sources on information technologies, or other areas that are experiencing rapid changes, need to be much more current. Therefore, reading an online review of a smartphone from 2009 on a website isn’t the most credible source of information for someone shopping for the latest smartphone and could be a sign that the site may no longer be functional.
5. Does the Site author cite sources?
Just as in print sources, web sources that cite their sources are considered more reliable. It shows that the author has done his/her homework and is familiar with scholarship in the field.
6. Who published the site?
Do a search on the domain name at http://www.whois.sc/. This site provides information about the owners of registered domain names. What is the organization’s main purpose? Check the organization’s main website, if it has one. Is it a reputable organization?
7. The Importance of Your Personal Information
If you are asked for personal information, such as credit card numbers or bank information, only provide it if there is a good reason to do so. Also, make sure there is a secure entry form for recording information. Look for a message stating that the information will be encrypted and check for the lock icon in the Security Status bar in the Internet Explorer Address bar (do not enter confidential information if there is no lock icon on the Address bar). Also, try to find out what the website’s policy is about storing information. You should be confident that the site is using your information properly and in a secure manner before providing any information.
8. Policies and Terms: How acceptable are they?
9. Is there a way to contact someone by phone or mail?
Do they have a valid phone number that you can call if you have a problem, or that you can use to place an order? Does the website list a street address? Is there a posted return policy with acceptable terms? If the site doesn’t provide a phone number or physical address, try contacting the company by e mail to ask for that information before making any spend.