Online shopping has taken off in South Africa and here’s some useful tips on how to avoid getting robbed in broad cyber light.

With over 800 local ecommerce website to choose from and thousands upon thousands of international websites like Amazon.com and others it has become much more acceptable to purchase goods online. According to web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, 95% of people visit e-commerce websites to facilitate product research, cross-shopping, and other non-buying tasks. And only 5% purchase products.

Some of the most important reasons Nielsen found, in a study by the Danish E-Commerce Association, for those who do purchase online are:

  • Easy to place an order
  • Large selection of products
  • Cheaper prices
  • Faster service and delivery
  • Detailed and clear information about what is being offered
  • No sales pressure
  • Easy payment procedures

Microsoft recommends that you shop at reputable online businesses, keep your personal information private, and check the fine print before buying. On the Internet there are thousands of websites selling varying things. The easy ones to trust are those who have a bricks and mortar operation e.g. Pick-n-Pay. But what do you do if you come across a website that you¡¦ve never heard of before and they have the product you want? Make sure the company supplies its full contact details like day time telephone number, physical address, etc. In addition check if they have a disclaimer and ¡§terms and conditions¡¨ in place. The final check, once you have decided to make a purchase, would be to see if they are using a secure website. Click on the product item and check whether the URL of the shopping cart page has an “https” in front. This means it is SSL, which is the same kind that online banking website have used for years.

When a website asks for too much information even before you make a purchase you should become suspicious. Just ask yourself why do they need to know your age, or date or birth to allow you to buy something? You should be allowed to browse through all the products and check the pricing information without having to supply any personal information. Fly by night companies may take your personal information and resell it; this may eventually result in your Inbox being swamped with spam. Be careful as to how much information you give out when shopping. Just give them the most important information.

Most people will not read the disclaimers, privacy statements, or the terms and conditions on websites. You can burn your fingers by not doing this, especially if you¡¦re unhappy and want to return the product for a refund. Many website have no refund policies and you¡¦ll be stuck with something you don¡¦t want, so always read the fine print. If you think you may use the website again it is worthwhile taking a few minutes to read the terms and conditions at least once. The privacy statements should also warn you of any ¡§cookies¡¨ being placed on your hard drive that tracks your preferences on the website.

These days it is recommended that you run anti-spyware software to clean your PC from unauthorised website cookies and other unwanted files you may never have known about.