NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Online shopping as we know it has changed forever.
It’s now easier than ever for companies to target consumers.
Companies place ads directly in shoppers’ social media feeds. But customers should tread lightly when clicking through promoted posts ahead of Cyber Monday.
Phylissia Clark with the Dallas-area Better Business Bureau demonstrated how to tell whether online ads and websites can be trusted.
She clicked on an ad for the children’s clothing company, Twirly Girl.
“Start at the top [of the website], the top is always a good indicator,” Clark said. “You always want to make sure the site is secure.”
- Ensure the page’s URL contains the letters H-T-T-P-S and the icon for a padlock. These signs indicate the site is encrypted.
“If you’re going to pay online, you don’t want to ever put your credit card info into in a site that’s not a secure site,” Clark said.
- Next, head to the bottom of the webpage. Check to see if the site posts cybersecurity certifications.
“There’s one from McAfee,” said Clark, referring to the Twirly Girl page. “Typically you can click through and it will show you whether McAfee has checked it out and show whether there’s anything malicious there.”
When Clark clicked the icon on Twirly Girl’s page, the results indicated McAfee had verified the site that same day.
- Make sure the company lists multiple points of contact, such as address, phone number and email.
Twirly Girl’s website included that exact information, including a mailing address in Los Angeles.
“That’s a great sign, but we say go a step further,” Clark said. “Copy and paste that address into your browser and see where it is.”
Lo and behold, not only was the address for Twirly Girl valid, a Google search yielded pictures of a storefront.
“If there’s no address, there’s no place to send a letter saying, ‘I didn’t get my stuff,’ or ‘I want a refund.'”
- Look for instant popups, especially ones that claim your item is running out of stock.
On the site, Magic Princess Tutu, a countdown warned shoppers that the sale was ending in 13 hours, 9 minutes and 56 seconds. Repeated visits to the site showed the same item was always accompanied by a countdown clock.
“Those are ad claims that get you to buy right away,” Clark said. “It’s definitely creating sense of urgency.”
Magic Princess Tutu did not respond to a request for comment.
Question any site where every item is discounted, even on Black Friday.
“If every single item is 90 percent on sale miraculously, that’s a red flag,” Clark said. “No one’s going to put everything on sale.”
Shoppers should also be suspicious of any price that seems too good to be true for a “quality” or brand name item.
- Clark recommends using a credit card with fraud protection in the event a scammer tries stealing your money.
She added if that’s not an option, shoppers can load a pre-paid debit card with the amount of money needed to purchase the desired item.
- Research the company’s website.
By visiting ICANN, shoppers can research a site’s proxy domain and find the age of a website. The older a website, the more likely the company behind it is an established company, according to Clark.
Clark said if the owner does not want to be contacted, that could be a red flag.