The internet is a convenient place to shop for the health products you need. However, it is important to remember that anyone can set up a shop online and that not everyone is operating with their customer’s best interest.
Are you considering buying your health products online? Before you start searching the web for sites to use, use these five tips to help you maneuver online.
1. Research the Website
Before you make a purchase online, you will want to make you are using a trusted and secure site. You should thoroughly research any company you encounter online before providing them with your personal information. This is true whether you intend to purchase a product from a company, or you wish to request more information.
Look to see if the site has the lock icon. The icon of a padlock will appear to the left of the URL in the address bar or below the status bar. Never buy anything from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. Also, the URL of the website should start with HTTPS instead of HTTP.
You should be able to identify a physical address for the company as well as a working phone number you can call. If you’re unsure of a site, check with the Better Business Bureau who has an online directory and a scam tracker.
Check the internet for reviews of the company you are considering purchasing health products from. Both Yelp or Google offer retailer reviews. You want to put the company you are looking at through the wringer before you purchase from them. Non-delivery and non-payment are the most common cybercrime complaint these days. Also, remember that online reviews can also be gamed. If you see nothing but positive feedback and can’t tell if the writers are legitimate customers, follow your instincts and find another company to use.
When you are searching for health products, services, or information, consider who’s behind the information. Some good options when looking to buy health products online include:
- Government websites (sites ending in .gov) are a good bet.
- Two great choices are MedlinePlus and Healthfinder.gov; both let you look up hundreds of health topics and the latest health headlines.
- University or medical school websites (.edu)
- Nonprofit groups with a mission that focuses on research and teaching about specific conditions (their URLs typically end in .org) can be useful resources.
- Understand the Company Shipping Policy
Once you decide it is safe to purchase from a company you found on the internet, you will want to fully understand the company’s shipping and returns policy. While most company’s these days offer free shipping, that isn’t always the case. If free shipping is not available, make sure the cost of shipping seems reasonable for what you are purchasing.
You will want to check the online company’s return policy. Check to see how long you have to return the item for a full refund. Also, how long will it take to get the refund back to your credit card. You might be interested in finding out of they offer exchanges just in case there is another item you want to purchase instead. If the company you are buying from online also has a store near you, see if you can return the item there instead of shipping it back.
You might want to consider setting up a PO Box for online purchases. Depending on the size of the package that is going to be delivered to your home, you might feel more comfortable picking it up from your local post office. This way, your packing won’t be left outside till you are home to retrieve it. If you are in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area, take a quick trip down to the Allentown post office and set up your PO Box. Also, most online retailers use USPS for returns, so that you can take care of everything in the same place.
2. Look for Coupons and Discounts
The competition is stiff for internet companies wishing to earn your business. Many times these companies offer discounts if you are a returning customer or issue coupons to gain your attention if you are a first-time visitor to their site. Explore these offers carefully and make sure you are getting the best deals that are being offered to you.
Consider adding browser extensions like Honey and WikiBuy. These web browser extensions will search the internet for any available coupons then they will try using them before you check out.
3. Only Buy Prescription Drugs from Licensed U.S. Pharmacies
It is not difficult to be fooled by someone online posing as a licensed pharmacy. These sites may use official-looking seals and logos, guarantee satisfaction or your money back, so they “look” legitimate. What looks like an online pharmacy could be a front for a scammer or identity theft. This could result in you receiving fake products, expired, or mislabeled, or products that contain dangerous ingredients. Or you may pay for a prescription and never get your order, and the company might not give you your money back.
If you want to see if the website is a licensed pharmacy in the United States. You will need to check with the board of pharmacy in the state where it’s based. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has information on each state’s board. NABP also has a list of online pharmacies that meet its standards, and are accredited through its Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program. Reputable pharmacy websites should:
- Require a prescription
- Have a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions
- Provide a physical business address and phone number
- Talk to Your Doctor or Healthcare Professional
Before buying health products online, talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about what you are looking to purchase online. As you look for answers to your health problems, you might come across websites or ads for pills or other products that make big promises. The reality is that most of these “miracle” products are useless, a waste of money while others are dangerous.
Don’t trust a website just because it looks professional or has success stories from “real people.” Also, don’t put much trust in products advertised as “scientific breakthroughs” or “ancient remedies,” or ads that use safe-sounding words like “natural.” Scammers can be creative, so that the stories may be made up, or the people may be actors or models paid to praise the product.
You will want to make sure you ask your doctor about any product before you try it. Your doctor can tell you about the risks of a product, whether there are reputable studies to support the claims, and its effect on any medicine you’re taking or treatments you’re getting.
The internet has made it easier to shop for most things without ever leaving the comfort of your home. This is true for prescription medications and other health products that work to make you feel better. You will be able to enjoy the convenience of shopping for medicines via the internet while keeping yourself safe from both fraud and danger when you make use of the five tips explained above.