How to Examine Websites for Personal Information Safety

By Ryan C. Williams

Look around and be choosy when it comes to online shopping and deciding where to share your personal information. If you walk into a restaurant and see a dirty floor and signs of mice or you’re assaulted by an unpleasant odor, let’s hope you would turn around and walk out.

If you’re smart, you apply the same principle when shopping and banking on the web. Look around before you whip out your credit card.

Ask yourself, “Does this site look like somebody put it up over a weekend? Or does it look like someone worked really hard to make my shopping experience a positive one? Has the company successfully instilled in me a sense of confidence and trust?” If not, it’s time to go shopping someplace else.

Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, the legitimacy of a website is hard to gauge just by looking. If you see signs of poor quality, you may want to consider moving along.

Use the power of the Internet to investigate. Just because you’ve never heard of a website doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good company. Look up reviews on Google or check social media. Chances are, if something went wrong, people are talking about it.

Here are some questions to keep in mind when you’re shopping online. Astute shoppers will notice that these questions are the same ones to keep in mind wherever you’re shopping:

  • Can you find the appropriate digital certificates and the VeriSign logo that indicate the website is authentic?

  • Do you regularly receive e-mail confirmation of your purchases?

  • Does the website provide a clear and complete privacy policy?

  • Are the descriptions clear enough to know what you’re ordering?

  • Are the prices competitive, with other online stores and with mail-order and regular retail?

  • Does the store have the products in stock, or does it offer a firm shipping date?

  • Does the store have a good reputation?

  • Does the store have a clearly written privacy policy that limits what it can do with the data it collects from you?

  • Can you ask questions about your order?

  • How can you return unsatisfactory goods?