As we're getting closer to Christmas, more shoppers are buying online. In 2014 UK shoppers spent approximately £17.4 billion online for Christmas. Over the holidays, it's important to keep safe whilst shopping online so you don't fall victim to any scam sites. Don't let your Christmas be ruined by hoax websites, here is what you need to look for before you trust an eCommerce site.

Dont fall for spam

During Christmas, scam websites regularly appear to try and catch innocent shoppers. 

In 2009, over 1000 scam sites were shut down by the UK e-crime unit leading up to Christmas. You don't have to be a computer tech whiz to know a genuine site from a fake. If you've found a new eCommerce website, check out these features before you consider giving them your card details. 

1) First Impressions - Design

good website design

Just by looking at a website's design you can tell if it can be trusted. Is the design a good quality or does it look like a plain mish-mash of styles someone has hurriedly put together?

A website with a good quality design can show the business behind it, is legit because they've invested time and money into a professional style.

Credible online businesses want to create a rapport with their customers and creating a beautifully designed and easy to navigate website is one of the easiest ways to create a long lasting relationship with customers. Scam websites aren't designed for the long-term so they are usually hastily and badly made.

Whilst a badly designed site doesn't mean all websites are scams, they are a strong indicator the site could be a con, like this one for example:

AntiquesHeaven.info

antiquesheaven

There's no design to speak of in this website, it's just plain and focuses on selling. If you come across a site that looks like this, stay away!

2) Image quality

Just like design, if the images on the website are blurred or low quality, this can be another warning light. Credible businesses won't put sites live if there are problems with the imagery, it's a sign someone has put the site up in a hurry. 

3) Quality of content

If the images look good, have a look at the content. Most untrusted sites won't make much effort with the quality of their content. Are there spelling mistakes or grammar issues? Or perhaps are you seeing this?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec cursus, metus vel mollis vestibulum, magna libero fermentum arcu, ac tristique dui nibh sed odio. Aliquam ullamcorper orci id leo lacinia viverra. Phasellus in elit sit amet lectus convallis scelerisque. 

This is Lorem Ipsum, dummy text, used on new build websites to fill up empty space. If you see this, then it's the obvious sign of a new website.

Spam example - Cuzb.com

spammy content

At first impressions the content on this site looks genuine but as you start to read it properly, you can tell the writer isn't English. The tone of voice on the site along with punctuation, grammar and spelling can signal the signs of a bad site. If you start hearing alarm bells when you're reading content on a site, it can suggest there's something wrong with it - listen to your gut. 

Google Penguin has been working to penalise websites with bad content but they're still out there so be wary.

4) Updated content

If the last time a company updated their website was 4 years ago or even 6 months, it can suggest there is something dodgy about the site. 

Especially leading up to Christmas, content on websites should be up-to-date about delivery times, returns policies, products and special offers. All content should be updated, otherwise most people will be scared off and think there's something not right about the site. 

5) Company Name

amazon logo

Perhaps one of the world's most trusted eCommerce websites in the world, Amazon is a trusted name and brand so people visiting the site know it's a safe place to shop online.

When going on a new site, look for the company name. Do a Google Search to see if you can learn any information about them, someone else might have encountered them before and discovered they're a spam site.

6) Customer Services

customer service ebaysource: eBay

Any trustworthy company will have a customer services section for you to contact them with enquiries. You can find this contact info in the footer or the main menu. The customer services section for eBay can be found in the footer.

Having a contact section can help you determine whether the website is a real business.

7) Reviews

Looking at reviews are one of the easiest ways of finding out if an eCommerce website is any good or not. TrustPilot and Feefo are good sources to look at for reviews. You can also search on Google to see what people have said. trustpilot

If you can't find any reviews then that might be a bad sign. Any eCommerce website should have reviews. Have a read through them and see what they say.

A real business will likely have positive and bad reviews (you can't make everyone happy). Real business owners will probably interact with reviewers and reply to people who did not have a good experience in hope they can encourage them to come back.

Alarm bells should be ringing if you see reviews that are badly written and all positive, they might have been planted there and could also be bought by people who own the website to encourage people to visit the online shop.

8)  Links

Websites have internal links to help navigate people through the site. However if the site has too many links that are navigating you away from the site and sending you to random other websites, then this is a major sign you're dealing with a spammer.

9) Social Media

Nowadays, it's the norm for online businesses to have a social media presence. Click on their social media buttons to see how they act online. If they're regularly engaging with people and updating their social profiles - they might be a credible business.

new look website social iconsSource: New Look website 

Facebook recently introduced new badges to business pages so you can see how effective businesses are at replying to customer enquiries. A scam site will likely create a social media profile just to play the part of a credible business but they probably won't reply to any enquiries - Facebook's new buttons can help you decipher the real sites from the forgeries. 

10)  Banner Ads

Just like having too many links, if a website has many spammy and flashing banner ads along the sides of their site, it's a major sign you've come across a spam site.

11) HTTPS

This is an important feature for eCommerce sites. Look at the domain bar and during the site's checkout section, the HTTP, should change to a HTTPS. The additional 's' is a firm indicator that the website is secure for making online transactions.

Amazon

https-amazon.png

Vistaprint

https-vistaprint.png

If you don't see 'https' then it's best not to go ahead with a transaction as your payment might not be taken securely.

12) Any trust badges?

Trusted e-commerce websites commonly have badges to prove they're trusted online businesses. 

trust badgesHere are just some badges sites can have on their site to show they have security to keep their customers safe whilst they shop.

2 FAST ways to find out if an eCommerce site can be trusted

If you've gone through the 12 steps above and you're still on the fence, then there's two steps you can take to help you decide whether you can trust the website or not.

Go to Google

google search

If you're ever concerned about a website, have a search on Google because it's likely people have talked about the site and you can find out if it can be trusted or if it's a bad egg.

Google is a quick and easy tool to find reviews and give you fast information. You can also see on Google Maps to see where the business is based. 

Who.Is

whois search

Visit who.is. Put the domain address of your suspicious website into who.is and you can find out information about the domain name, where it's from and any history about it. If there's any suspicious activity, then you shouldn't be going anywhere near the site.


 

If it's the first time you're visiting a new eCommerce site then  you should always investigate. It's always worth time trying to investigating the site, rather than losing your money because you couldn't be bothered.

It's not nice thinking there are sites out there trying to trick you but it happens and you need to avoid falling victim.  

If you see any dodgy websites this Christmas, report them to ActionFraud.  

Do you want to find out how strong your website is? To have a successful eCommerce website, you need to have a strong site. Try out our website grader for FREE!

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Have you ever had any bad experiences with spammy eCommerce sites? Tell us in the comments below.  

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