How do I know which websites I can trust?

9 July 2012

Q

I often search the internet for cheap deals but this is fraught with dangers, as anyone can create a professional and trustworthy-looking website.Some deals are excellent value for money but others can be fake. The problem is it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell the fake websites from the genuine ones.Is there any way of checking that a business is valid, in particular ones that are based abroad?I saw a great offer recently but am too scared to take advantage of it in case it is a scam.
From
AM Kirkcudbright

A

The old saying, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’, is a good rule of thumb but cybercriminals are becoming increasingly innovative and a fake website can be difficult to spot.

I would suggest the following steps if you are concerned about a website’s authenticity:

  • Check the company has a physical address rather than a PO Box number.
  • Make contact with the company before you buy anything to ask a straightforward question. This way you can gauge how easy it is to contact should you have any problems in the future.
  • See if the company has a governing body or trade body. These organisations can then be contacted to check the validity of the company. Registered UK-based businesses will be on the Companies House website: companieshouse.gov.uk/toolsToHelp/findCompanyInfo.shtml
  • Seek second opinions via social media. Facebook and Twitter can be great sources for opinions from people who have used websites or had experience of companies you are considering engaging with.