How to know if a website is safe and reliable to buy online

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Carlos Laforet Coll
@carloslaforetcoll
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Knowing if a website is safe or not is essential when making an online purchase. In addition to having the guarantee that you will receive the product, you need to be sure that your personal and bank details are protected.

We have gathered below the main tips to see if an online store is reliable and thus avoid possible scares.

1. Use a Safe Website Checker

There are several free online services that assess whether a web page is safe or not. In most of them, just copy the URL address and paste it into the search tool.



O Google Transparency Report is one of the best known and claims to analyze billions of URLs a day to find potential security holes. According to the company, it is common for real websites to appear among those affected.

This indicates that they may have suffered an attack or that they need an update and, therefore, at that moment, they are considered dangerous.

Below we list the main services to test the security of websites:

  • Google Transparency Report (in Portuguese)
  • Norton Safe Web (in Portuguese)
  • Sitechecker (English)
  • Trend Micro (English)

2. Do not click on suspicious links

Be careful when clicking on a promotion link you received by email or in a banner advertising on a website. They can direct you to fake websites that copy the visual identity of well-known brand pages to steal user data.

This practice is known as phishing. By impersonating legitimate websites, they request personal and banking information from users, who are tricked into sharing them. But there is a simple way to detect if they actually lead to the suggested page.



Position the mouse pointer over the link or banner, without clicking. At the bottom of the browser, the address will be displayed. See if it matches the given store URL.

Place the mouse here to test (without clicking! 😁)

Take a close look at the URL. Cyber ​​criminals have been specializing and replacing characters with visually similar ones, such as the letter O by the number 0, for example. An inattentive look may not make the difference.

3. HTTPS (or padlock)

Have you noticed that website addresses always start with http:// ou https://? Although they look the same, the letters makes all the difference when it comes to safety and reliability.

It indicates the presence of the SSL or TLS protocol, which guarantees encrypted communication between the page and the internet browser. In other words, it informs that no one will be able to encrypt the shared data if the connection is intercepted.

Browsers often flag trusted sites with the icon of a padlock or with the word insurance, on the left side of the address bar. Never provide your data if you don't see these indicators.

Security software company AVG warns that https cannot be fully trusted. According to the company, there are already phishing sites that use the protocol “to appear legitimate”.

That is, despite not being able to intercept the data, the website owner, who is a criminal, receives it. Just in case, put all the tips in this article into practice to make sure you're on a reliable page.


4. Look for the security seal

Security seals are certificates that indicate that the website has taken steps to ensure that there are no risks or vulnerabilities for its customers. They are indicated by static images, usually displayed at the end of the site.


But scammers are constantly looking for alternatives. It is possible to find pages that copy and paste these stamps, without guaranteeing the promised protection. Therefore, whenever you can, access the page of the indicated seal and search for the virtual store in which you want to buy. Among the best known are the following:

  • SiteLock
  • Armored website
  • Google Safe Browsing
  • eBit
  • Certisign
  • Complain here

5. Watch out for suspicious signs

Although it seems like an obvious tip, the look of the online store can say a lot about it. Some signs help to find out if a website is fake or if it is infected with malware. Are they:

  • Pop-ups. If upon entering, several windows begin to open, be aware. It could be an attempt to get you to click on a link by mistake and be taken to another page. Or for you to download a malicious program by accident.
  • Sites mal diagramados, with an old-fashioned look. If neither looks are up to date, chances are the security protocols aren't either.
  • malicious ads. In general, they are the ones who wink and do everything to get your attention, even with incredible but false promises. Also pay attention to appealing calls, involving scandals or miracles. Typing errors should also serve as a warning.
  • Be redirected to another page completely different. According to AVG, this could indicate that the site is a fake or that an original site has been hacked or contaminated by malware.
  • Browser alert. Many browsers prevent the user from accessing pages they consider suspicious. Chrome, for example, issues warnings about dangerous and deceptive content when it detects phishing and malware. You can opt out of accessing these unsecured sites. However, it is not recommended.

In addition to observing these factors, you can also resort to free online services, which scan and check if the website is contaminated with any malicious program. THE VirusTotal is the best known of them. Just enter the address and search. The result is displayed in English.



6. Investigate the reputation of the online store

Before making a purchase in an online store, it is a good idea to research it on a search engine, such as Google. If there is something bad, it will likely show up in the search.

Take the opportunity to check the company's reputation on the website Complain here. On the platform, consumers expose dissatisfaction of all kinds. Companies have the space to respond and resolve problems, and this intermediation is visible to everyone.

Therefore, it is possible to monitor customer dissatisfaction and how the store is positioned in relation to adverse situations. Reclame Aqui even informs the percentage of questions answered and questions resolved.

The tool Whois, from the Registro.br website, displays information about the website owner's name, contact details and when and where he was registered. Enter the address in the format www.nomedosite.com.br, without http or https, or items after br such as forward slashes. Be suspicious if you find discrepancies.

Finally, you can also search for the company's National Register of Legal Entities (CNPJ) in the Federal Revenue website. In the document, the real and fantasy name are available, in addition to the description of the economic activity.

The CNPJ of the online store can usually be found at the bottom of the store's website homepage. Just scroll to the end and look for the number, next to the address.

7. When in doubt, confirm the contacts

If after all these observations, you're still not sure if the site is safe to buy from, do one last test. Look for the contacts on the store page and call or email us.

If it is an authentic institution, the service will be as expected from a serious company. Be suspicious if, on the phone, you are answered by someone who uses slang or does not have the confidence to answer questions about the products.

In the case of e-mail, check for grammatical errors and if the message has the same visual identity as the website. It's details that can make all the difference.

To buy online safely

If after checking all the above mentioned aspects, you come to the conclusion that the site is safe, then it's time to buy. But keep in mind that you should never be careless, to avoid unforeseen events.

1. Check the exchange and return rules

Before completing the purchase, check the information about the store's return and exchange policies. According to the Consumer Protection Code, in an online purchase, it is possible to return the product up to 7 days after the date of receipt.

It is not necessary that the product has a defect, it may just be because you do not like or regret the purchase. Check if the site complies with what is required by law. Otherwise, give up on the purchase and report the store to your state's Procon.

2. Choose a secure payment method

Give preference to the virtual credit card, a payment method developed specifically for online purchases. In some banks, with each transaction, the card data expires, to maintain security.

In other institutions, this numbering does not change, but differs from that of the physical credit card. However, if you notice any suspicious activity, you can quickly cancel and request a new one.

Although considered safe because they do not expose the user's bank details, payment by bank slip also poses risks. According to security software company Avast, malicious people can generate fake boletos.

In such cases, it is practically impossible to obtain reimbursement. To make matters worse, there are scammers who request the victim's bank details with the excuse of transferring the amount and end up obtaining confidential information.

3. Shop on a private network

Never shop using a public Wi-Fi network. Because it's an open network, it's easier for a hacker to broker the connection between your PC and the website. Especially if it's a page without SSL or TLS protocol.

Therefore, it is recommended to buy online only through a private Wi-Fi network, such as your home, or using your mobile data network.

4. Save the transaction receipt

After making your purchase in an online store, a recommendation from experts is to keep the receipts. Both payment and purchase completion.

If needed, take a screenshot. So, if there is a problem, you will have all the documents necessary to prove that the transaction was made.

5. Use an antivirus

It seems a bit obvious, but make sure your antivirus is activated at the time of purchase. This way, you'll have an extra layer of protection for your data, which is never too much.

6. Enable Bank Transaction Notifications

If your bank no longer sends you alerts about bank transactions made, see if it offers the feature. If so, ask to activate it. Thus, when any movement is made to your account or credit card, you will be notified in real time. If you are not responsible, you must notify the financial institution as soon as possible.

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