Corporate Responsibility

How to tell if an online shop is legitimate

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Tips for proper verification.

People are increasingly shopping online, but unfortunately scammers want in on this growing market too. Whenever something piques your interest in a shop that does not belong to a mainstream retailer, you should check whether the site is reputable before ordering.

Illustration: Online Payments, risk free

Online Payments, risk free.    

Of course, everyone is looking for a good deal when shopping. But if the prices for a lot of the products are significantly lower than those of the competition, look at the site with a critical eye. Not every low-price shop hides a scammer. And not every scammer works with especially low-price sites. Still, a healthy dose of suspicion is a good idea.

Illustration "How to tell if an online shop is legitimate."

Watch for the signs of a reputable merchant, listed below. The merchant does not have to show all of the signs, but if several factors are missing, think critically about whether you want to shop there.

  • A legitimate merchant will make the security of your data a priority. For this reason, make sure your browser indicates a secure connection when you access the shop.
  • The merchant offers many payment methods. Online merchants strive to make payment as easy as possible for customers. Shops that insist on prepayment are risky. If other payment methods were offered on the home page but you are required to pay before receiving the goods when you get to the end of the ordering process, stop there.
  • The shop has publishing details: Name of business and owner/operator, address, and contact information should be on a website. If this information is missing, you may be dealing with a disreputable vendor. The site should show general terms and conditions and a data protection statement.
  • The merchant seeks to build trust with trustmarks: Independent certifications of quality such as “Trusted Shops” or “Online shop verified by EHI Retail Institute” provide a guideline when searching for legitimate shops. To earn them, merchants have to meet several stringent issuing criteria. If these logos appear on the shop website, click on them to test them. If the shop really is entitled to bear the logo, the link will point to more information about the provider. 
  • Ratings from other customers are another good indicator of what the shop is offering, so look for reviews and evaluations from independent portals. If the merchant has not included any ratings, search online for reviews and references. 

Further reading