Time to Startup!

The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.

Finding an Online Deal or Getting Trapped in an Online Scam

Published on Nov 10, 2010


Read 'Finding an Online Deal or Getting Trapped in an Online Scam' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
DianaWe've all gotten the unsolicited emails advertising discounted Rolexes or cheap enhancement pills, and hopefully, haven't fallen into their unscrupulous clutches. But what happens when you find a deal outside your inbox that appears too good to be true? $40 or $400 items, savings and discounts from every major retailer you can imagine, the sky is the limit. Most small businesses know better than to trust something just because it's on the Internet, but it's tempting when we hear that there are a lot of untapped opportunities out there. It's just important to be able to differentiate between an amazing deal and an amazing scam. You've found a deal on exactly what your small business needs, now how do you know if you can trust it? After all, online scammers only make (or steal) money because of their ability to deceive. No deal should be trusted at face value simply because it has one trustworthy quality. Here a few trustworthy qualities to look for:
  1. A well-designed, professionally built website. Building a well-designed website isn't nearly as easy as building a website. Companies that have a vested interest in customer relations are more likely to have a well-designed website because they understand that the online face of their companies is just as important as a storefront. How likely is a customer to venture into a store that a roof appears to be caving in on?
  2. Easy to find information. An online scammer is probably not going to have a statement on his or her website like "ripping customers off since 1983." A legitimate company isn't ashamed of its background so it isn't going to be hidden away and out of view.
  3. A working contact method. Providing a method of contact is important and usually the more contact methods, the better. However, the most important aspect of a contact method is if it works or not. Is the phone number answered? Is the email address valid? Companies want to answer questions because if a consumer has questions, the company can address, that consumer is more likely to become a customer.
  4. A secure website. If a website asks for payment information, it should be equipped with a SSl (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. One easy way to find out if this is the case is to use an SSL checker like www.digcert.com. Another additional easy check is to see if the website is connected through an http:// connection or an https:// connection.
  5. Privacy documentation is available. If you're expected to provide any type of information to a website - that  website should be expected to let you know what they're going to be doing with it. Privacy policies have that information. While I can't honestly say that I've read through every privacy policy on the websites I trust, I know that the information is readily available.
  6. You're actually getting  the brand you're paying for. Unfortunately, there are cheap imitations out there of products in high demand, Prado instead of Prada etc. So you'll want to make sure that if the website you're choosing to trust says it has a Hertz discount - it is a Hertz discount, not a generic car rental discount.
You've found the ideal deal for your small business, for example, Allied Business Network's (ABN) discount of up to 85% off on Office Depot's core office supplies. When you run ABN's website across this brief checklist, you get the following results:
  1. ABN's website has a clean design without dead links.
  2. There is an "About ABN" link at the bottom of each page.
  3. When calling 866.226.7283, you reach an actual person, not an automated system.
  4. ABN's website doesn't have an SSL certificate on file, but it also does not require any kind of payment information.
  5. There is a link to ABN's "Privacy Policy" at the bottom of each page.
  6. The Office Depot discount link goes through business.officedepot.com, the Business Solutions Division of Office Depot.
My determination: trustworthy. While every site that fulfills my recommendations for confirming validity necessarily are legitimate, it doesn't hurt to check and see if that deal that is just too good to be true - as is. About the author Diana Werkmeister works with Allied Business Network's marketing team. Allied Business Network is a business membership group that provides corporate level discounts to small- and medium-sized businesses. Allied Business Network can be found online at http://www.abnsave.com.