A netizen recently posted on social media how he bought a brand-new hard drive from an online store only to find out that it was slow and far from optimized. He decided to open up the unit itself and see if there was a hardware issue that needed fixing.

He was bewildered at what he saw next: His supposedly 2TB external hard drive was hollowed out. There was only a single USB flash drive inside connected to the port and metal plates that gave weight to the unit. To add insult to injury, the serial number on the fake unit was confirmed by the brand’s website.

While there are a lot of success stories that come with online shopping, there are some tales of horror as well. However, online shopping has become a huge part of life, and most especially these days during the pandemic.

Though there will always be risks involved when shopping for items that you can’t see and check for yourself, here are some tips on how to shop securely for items on the internet.

Do you really have to shop online?

This here is the very first question you must ask yourself. There are several reasons why people would rather buy items online, but the most common of all is that these things are mostly cheaper than their counterparts being sold in local retail shops. Is the discount really worth the risk? Are you willing to wait weeks for the item when it’s just a drive away to the mall? If you’re not too sure about the answers to those questions, you might be better off just splurging a bit for the sake of certainty.

Reviews save the day

Go for gold and check for those online stores with five-star ratings! Don’t risk shopping in a three-star store. Some low-rated stores might tempt you with their cheaper offers, but it’s not worth it. There is also volume to consider. While a shop has a high review rating, make sure it’s reviewed by tens or even better, thousands of people already. Don’t be fooled by a five-star store reviewed by only two people. Who knows? They might be the scammers themselves luring in the newbies.

Buy only what you need

The more time you spend browsing online, the bigger the chance you might purchase something you don’t really need. The odds of you getting a faulty product or a sub-standard item get bigger if you’re not shopping with a clear head. Enter online stores with a plan and execute it to the dot. Your chances of landing a good product are better if you just stick to the plan. Also, pay attention to detail! Watch out for product specifications or dimensions.

Be careful with payment details

Make sure you have your credit and debit cards ready. Make sure you have given the right details from the shipping address to the contact number. But most importantly, make sure the shop is not asking you for information that’s outside of what is really needed. Don’t be vulnerable to “phishing” attacks. Defined in Wikipedia, “Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”

Only spend for what you can afford to lose

This here is a trader’s “mantra.” There will always be some amount of risk when it comes to online shopping. In fact, most variables are outside your control. Even if you are diligent and execute the tips mentioned, those in charge of shipping might lose your item in transit or handle it roughly. When you take a chance on online shopping, prepare for the possibility of zeroing out. If you can take it, go for it. But in the end, “Fortune favors the bold,” they say. S