A reader wrote in, asking about whether an unfamiliar online tool store was legitimate or not. His friend came across a listing for a Milwaukee cordless power tool combo kit, and it smelled “off” from the start. But could there be a chance it was a good deal?
Here’s some of the questions I ask:
Is there a phone number to call? Smaller stores might only have an email address, but any listed information is better than a contact form.
Do the social media links work? Broken links to Twitter? A Facebook link that goes back to the home page? These days, no social media presence is a red flag.
How old is the website? The website I was specifically asked about has a 6/30/2018 registration date. The SSL certificate is dated 7/10/2018. ICANN Whois, Whois.net (and other such services) can give you a domain’s registration info.
Scam sites don’t often last long – once people start coming forward about being ripped off, the site is taken down and a new one takes its place at a different domain.
What’s in the SSL certificate? The offending website is using a free Cloudflare SSL certificate.
Does the URL match the product? The above Milwaukee listing was found at a domain: [redacted.com]/matelass-leather-tote-p42.html.
Does it look like a scam? The site in question looks like it was put together in an hour using boiler plate templates. Don’t let the prospect of a deal trump your gut instincts.
Does the branding match the URL? In this case, the logo doesn’t match the domain name.
Look at the info pages. If a store only lists tools, but the return policy mentions items needing to be returned unwashed, unworn, and with tags attached, something’s fishy.
Legitimate stores will often have established social media, public forum posts discussing deals or customer service experience, verifiable contact information, an established domain name, realistic pricing, and will often “feel” right.
An online store might feel right and still be a scam, or it might be legitimate and still give off some wrong feelings. Use your judgement, and if you cannot tell, ask us, or anyone else that can provide you with an objective outside opinion.
The danger here is that many perfectly reasonable people throw caution and good judgement to the wind if there’s the prospect of an incredible deal.
Countdown timers or low quantity warnings can lead to a sense of urgency, but they’re artificial.
Every now and then I need a specialty tool or product, and have to order it from an unfamiliar store. *Knock on wood,* the guidelines above have helped me choose the right retailers and suppliers so far.