While "Cyber Monday" may, or may not, be a marketing gimmick (as highlighted earlier today by Mark), it is a good time to remind shoppers to be careful out there on the World Wide Web. You don't always know who's on the other end.
It's always a good idea to check out the online reputation of a retailer before doing business with them.
The New York Times drove this point home the other day with the cautionary tale of Clarabelle Rodriguez and her quest for justice from the site DecorMyEyes.com.
A Google search for frames and contact lenses led Rodriguez to DecorMyEyes, which appeared as one of the top non-paid results to her query. She placed an order, diving head first into a Kafkaesque series of events.
And that is exactly how DecorMyEyes entrepreneur Vitaly Borker planned it. He has found that negative reviews of his business sent him up the Google rankings for searches related to the products he sells. Borker best explained his strategy in an online comment the NYT ascribed to him:
Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com. I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.
So, even a post like this, intended as a warning to online shoppers, plays to the advantage of Borker's DecorMyEyes online search visibility!
There are, however, simple ways to protect yourself. A quick Web search or Better Business Bureau database search on the reputation of a company and complaints about it can alert consumers to potential problems.
The government also provides resources for consumers concerned about shopping online. The FTC publishes a variety of information — including the OnGuard Online Web site — explaining how consumers can protect themselves.
And, if you think you've already been the victim of online fraud, the Internet Crime Complaint Center is one place where you can file a complaint with the government.