E-commerce: How to spot safe and secure online stores?



Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season are particularly conducive to online shopping. E-commerce remains very popular but can sometimes hold unpleasant surprises for online consumers. Thanks to Stop Piracy and the Swiss Trade Association, we provide you with some tips for recognizing a safe and secure online store.

As a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis and the rise of e-commerce, the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security has noticed an increase in counterfeit products from e-commerce. Fake stores and counterfeit brands unfortunately also exist on the web.

It is during the Black Friday period and in the lead-up to the holiday season that internet pirates are particularly active. Here are some tips to ensure that the site where you are shopping is serious, safe and secure, does not sell counterfeit and illegal products, or set up scams.


our 8 tips to spot safe and secure online shops


Our tips for recognizing a serious, safe and secure online store

1. The website address

First observation to make: ensure that the online store’s address does not resemble a modified version of another existing web address. Also pay attention to extensions such as -switzerland or -suisse. Note that a web address ending in “.ch” is not necessarily a guarantee of a serious, 100% safe, and reliable online store. Unusual domain names with XY should also arouse your suspicion. Be vigilant if you encounter terms such as “warez”, “gamez”, “appz”, or “moviez”, which indicate piracy.

2. Legal Notice and Contact

Make sure that the online store’s legal notice contains the company address, an email address, and legal information such as the commercial register identification number. Avoid ordering a product from an online store that does not have a legal notice, as it is likely to be fraudulent.

It should also be possible to contact each online store, either by chat, email, or even better, by phone. Regarding email addresses, a free email service can signify a lack of seriousness on the part of online sellers.

3. Reviews

A key indicator of the quality, seriousness, and credibility of an online store. E-commerce platform reviews can say several things:

– A large number of particularly negative reviews indicate that customers are angry or deceived.

– A large number of very positive reviews might suggest that the reviews have been bought.

– The vast majority of very positive or very negative reviews can indicate that the online stores sell counterfeits.

Indicators of an e-commerce site’s reliability can be negative reviews, the absence of reviews, or an oddly high number of particularly positive reviews. Think about this before making your online purchases!

4. Labels

Try to spot the presence of quality labels displayed on online sales sites. Trusted Shops or Swiss Online Guarantee are for example good guarantees of a reliable and safe online store. Note that some fake internet sites use free quality labels to enhance the trust of potential buyers.

5. Return System

Although the future of e-commerce seems to be shaping up without returns of merchandise, the return policy is also an important criterion for detecting a reliable, safe and secure online store. Many e-retailers indeed offer to return products for free. If no return is possible, it’s better to be wary.

6. Prices

Prices are an important indicator of an online store’s credibility! Be cautious if the prices are too attractive to be true. E-shops do of course offer discounts and promotions but, like Black Friday, these price reduction measures are time-limited and remain consistent with the original price.

7. Site Content and Products

In terms of content and form, it is also possible to detect a fraudulent online store, counterfeits, or online scams. Obvious automatic translations, spelling mistakes, or poor quality logos often reflect the poor quality of the brand or counterfeit. Also avoid making a purchase if terms like “copy”, “replica”, “imitation”, “cheap”, or “lookalike” are present in product descriptions. Poor quality photos and other illustrations of products (or services) are also not a good sign.

Regarding the goods or services sold by an online store, it is rare, for example, to find luxury watches or accessories for sale on the internet. Finding several luxury brands on the same site can also raise suspicions.

8. Payment Methods

Last but not least, to recognize a safe and secure online store! Before checking out, also make sure of the payment methods offered by the online shop. The most common and secure are PayPal and credit cards. Bank transfers and Western Union can be indicators of fraud.

Whether during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, or the rest of the year, make sure you shop at a serious and reliable e-shop. The indicators we have detailed above allow you to recognize a credible, safe and secure online store and, conversely, to detect a fraudulent, illegal e-commerce platform prone to scams. Happy e-shopping!