This is not a complete guide to shopping by any means, but if you have no problems giving your credit or debit card details to websites, despite having no idea in which country the company is, are you taking risks with your money?

Being clear on this, the name of the website doesn’t give any confirmation as where the company is in the world. Just because there is a .co.uk in the address, it doesn’t mean it’s based in the UK for instance. Neither does a UK telephone number in the website contact details, with VOIP telephones it can be literally anywhere.

What if there is a UK postal address? Surely that means you are dealing with a UK company? Nope. As an example, I know of a company that sells online with a .co.uk domain and contact details in London, but has it’s warehouse and offices on the East Coast of the United States. This is made clear as you get further into the purchasing process, but just shows that in this virtual world, you can take nothing for granted.

Admittedly being based in the UK does not mean that the website is to be trusted any more than any other country. But if you can’t use obvious means to decide who is safe to buy from and who isn’t, how can you decide?

There are some things to look out for, some just common sense, some not so obvious. To start off with, if you want to buy something, is there any contact address on the site. If there isn’t how will you contact them if something goes wrong? Plus of course, you can always have a look at the address on Google street view, which will give you additional information, like is the address for a different company altogether?

Then there’s the technical stuff. If the website is not using an https connection and is only using http, do not buy anything from that site, unless they are using a recognised shopping service with https. An https connection means your connection is encrypted, which is much safer. Modern browsers, particularly Chrome, are now pointing out when a connection is not secure.

So, when shopping, look for the padlock near the address on websites you intend to buy from, try and verify the company is who they say they are, and use your common sense.