People can vote for as many essays as they choose, but only get one vote per essay. Students are encouraged to share their essay with friends and family or on social media to generate more votes. Only votes from the scholarship website will be considered. Only one essay per state will be chosen to receive the $2,000 scholarship. 

Corinne Nicole Hines – La Grande High School

Purchasing merchandise online is very convenient and accessible. However, there is nothing worse than falling into the schemes of a scam, or thinking a purchase is from a trustworthy company only to find that the business is unreliable. Even so, there are many ways of protecting oneself when online shopping. This includes strategies as easy as double checking the address bar to complicated actions like thoroughly researching the business.

Looking at the features a website has is the simplest way to see if it’s reliable. Visual indicators, like a padlock or key in the browser bar or “https” in the web address, signal a secure website. Eyeing the professional appearance of the site is also effective . Misspellings, poor image quality, pop-up ads, and slow loading pages are cues that the website is dubious. Similarly, looking for a physical address or phone number is a simple way of checking to see if the company is legitimate. Likewise, reliable companies will have recognizable symbols. If the business belongs to a professional organization there should be an emblem. One of the most dependable endorsements is membership to Better Business Bureau. If there is a logo that says “BBB accredited business,” customers know that a company has taken the time to legitimize their business with the BBB. Another familiar mark is the “Verified by Visa” symbol on the checkout page, which means purchases are protected from fraud. An additional sign is the checkmark that says Norton Secured, indicating there is a high level of assurance that the site is safe.

An in-depth investigation never hurts when verifying businesses. This is tedious, but effective in determining a scam. Use the phone number of the company to make personal contact and talk to a representative or the address to confirm the existence of the company by searching the state business registry where the company is listed. Another measure is analyzing multiple online reviews. Don’t just trust the reviews that are on the website itself; many sites will falsify comments to coerce people into purchases. Go to other unrelated web pages for reviews, like the Better Business Bureau or the Consumer Protection Agency. Another rule is never wire money directly to a company. Instead, use a credit card or a third party mediator, like PayPal. Credit card companies have protections in place to help people reclaim their money should they fall victim to scams.

Navigating the internet for businesses can be complicated and confusing, but there are measures to protect oneself from possible dangers. The web may have many scams, but there are ways to ensure that businesses are legitimate and taking precautions can save consumers a great deal of time and trouble in the long run. Individuals can protect themselves by taking note of different website features and researching the details of a company carefully.

About BBB Northwest + Pacific Torch Talk

Torch Talk is an online and printed resource for both consumer and business news. It serves as a tool for businesses and consumers to learn more about the latest news and scam alerts, helpful business tips, BBB events and programs, and more. For more information or to subscribe, visit trust-bbb.org/torchtalk/.